Player: Evan Rodrigues
Born: July 28, 1993 (age-28 season in 2021-22, turning 29 later this summer)
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 184 pounds
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2021-22 Statistics: 82 games played —19 goals, 24 assists, 43 points, 14 penalty minutes
Contract Status: Rodrigues became an unrestricted free agent last summer, but returned to the Penguins when he signed a one year deal worth $1.0 million on the first day of free agency. He is again set to become an UFA this July unless he and the team come to terms on a new deal beforehand.
Fun facts: Rodrigues was the only Penguin to appear in all 82 regular season games this season, and one of just 45 players across the entire NHL who could claim perfect attendance during this COVID-impacted season....In addition to games played, Rodrigues also set personal season-bests in goals, power play goals, assists and points....Rodrigues’ 243 shots on goal ranked second on the team this season (Jake Guentzel, 264)...
Rodrigues earned a 57% B grade from Pensburgh voters last summer after scoring 14 points (7G+7A) in 35 games.
Rodrigues flashed in Game 3 of the Pens’ series against the New York Rangers, he scored two goals and added an assist in the first period alone — putting him in rare company for recorded three points in a single period. On a down note, ERod made an impact in a bad way taking a retaliation penalty in Game 6 that helped turn the tide of that game. Rodrigues then scored the final goal of Pittsburgh’s season in Game 7, scoring on a short-handed breakaway to push the Pens to a temporary 3-2 lead.
Story of the Season
More than anyone else on the team, it was a story of two split seasons for Rodrigues that can be broken out accordingly:
First 33 games (Oct 12th - Jan 7th): 15 goals, 15 assists
Final 49 games (Jan 8th - Apr 29th): 4 goals, 9 assists
In the early portion of the season, Rodrigues was in a key role on a team that didn’t have Evgeni Malkin and had Sidney Crosby missing the early portion of the campaign. This culminated with a December that saw Pittsburgh playing Rodrigues nearly 20 minutes a game, and he rewarded the team with that usage with a point/per game production that month and basically for the first three months of the season. The positive results only helped Rodrigues’ confidence and helped him play even better.
Rodrigues on the reason for his success this year: “Confidence. I've said it time and time again. Just opportunity and confidence.” pic.twitter.com/601PtyAHLj— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 15, 2021
It should be no real surprise that Rodrigues’ role and opportunity took a hit almost exactly when Malkin returned on January 10th. After Malkin’s return, Rodrigues would only score one more power play goal over the final 48 games of the season. Rodrigues would only take 8+ faceoffs in just three games from that point on in the year, after taking a center’s role of faceoffs in the majority (18/33 games) of early games in the season.
With less ice time and power play chances, Rodrigues no longer produced like he did with more favorable deployments. That shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was certainly a slump and disappointing that he stopped finishing and only scored a few goals in the second half of the season.
-Rodrigues took 8+ faceoffs in 21 games this season, in those 21 games he scored 22 points (13 goals and 9 assists) and averaged playing over 16 minutes per game. In the 61 other games where he took less than eight faceoffs, Rodrigues had 6G+15A while playing under 16 minutes per game.
-Rodrigues drew 34 minutes of power plays for the Pens, the second most for a forward on the team (behind Guentzel again at 38 minutes drawn). Rodrigues only took 14 penalty minutes himself to be a very efficient and helpful player for the team in that regard overall... Even though at the end of the day that retaliation penalty in Game 6 unfortunately was a turning point against the Pens in a sour closing note in that regard.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 17 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 56.9% (4th)
Goals For%: 53.0% (9th)
xGF%: 57.7% (3rd)
Scoring Chance %: 57.0% (3rd)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 56.8% (4th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 6.9% (14th)
On-ice save%: 91.9% (11th)
Goals/60: 0.5 (15th)
Assist/60: 1.14 (7th)
Points/60: 1.65 (10th)
“I think more than ever this year, I wanted the puck on my stick,” Rodrigues said at his season ending press conference. “Hopping over the boards and wanting to make plays, I think that’s a big key to success for me personally. That’s something I flourished with this year.”..That sums Rodrigues’ year up very well, his 10.56 shots/60 at 5v5 led all regular forwards on the team. This helped inflate a lot of his advanced stats, but with a low shooting percentage (particularly in the second half of the season) it also contributed to a lack of finishing that haunted the team down the stretch.
Rodrigues was a successful 5v5 player (the team scored 44 goals, giving up 39 while he was on the ice at full strength) with Rodrigues chipping in 29 5v5 points (9G+20A) along the way. Then considering the power play portion, when Rodrigues was among the NHL leaders in power play goals in the early months of the season adds in more value.
Rodrigues was a zone entry wizard this season, being one of the very best players on the rush in the whole league. He used his wheels to carry the puck into the opponent’s end frequently and did well to then generate shots off of it.
On expected goals, Rodrigues was one of the finest forwards in Pittsburgh this season — arguably the best in this regard. He kept expected goals down, often by simply keeping the puck out of his own end and forcing opponents to defend themselves and not be able to get their offensive play going.
On a three-year look, 2021-22 may end up being Rodrigues’ best season of his career. He only scored nine 5v5 goals (on 186 shots at full strength) for just a 4.9 shooting%. That made finishing woes about one negative for his year. With a little more skill, luck or shot placement, he could have improved upon these numbers even further.
The move on this goal is one of the best of the year.
Need a reason to smile as big as Evan Rodrigues?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 7, 2022
How about this fact? E-Rod has 14 points in his last nine games (7G-7A). pic.twitter.com/e4VSOobny1
Evan Rodrigues has two goals and an assist in Game 3... and we still have two periods of hockey to go. pic.twitter.com/q5x2siOHhr— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 7, 2022
Rodrigues was like a right-handed Jared McCann on the power play this season, using his shot from distance to score fairly often.
AND THE POINT AFTER IS GOOD!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 24, 2021
7 goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rodrigues scores on the power play to make it 7-1. pic.twitter.com/ByeE8QWhfN
Evan Rodrigues goes bar down on the power play pic.twitter.com/vAdhLWIoSj— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 28, 2021
Last game, Evan Rodrigues scored three goals... and he's got another goal (and an assist) tonight!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 6, 2022
YOU LOVE TO SEE IT! pic.twitter.com/aQfTTDKfX2
Last game, Evan Rodrigues tallied one goal and two assists. He also tied his career-high in goals (9), set a new career-high in power-play goals (3), and reached the 20-point plateau for the third time in his career.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 18, 2021
...And now he has yet another power-play goal. pic.twitter.com/HJ0ZTPgKqP
Oh, just Evan Rodrigues casually scoring two goals less than five minutes into the game. pic.twitter.com/gwjdlCVEon— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 2, 2022
100 career points and an absolutely perfect shot from Evan Rodrigues pic.twitter.com/VmVhFnsI8X— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 25, 2021
In a lot of ways, Evan Rodrigues was a player that encompassed the Pens’ season. He was really good early on in the year, and overall found himself on the right side of play by using his speed and willingness to shoot the puck. He stayed out of the box (until...he didn’t in Game 6) and drew a lot of penalties himself. Rodrigues had a career-year in 2021-22, and it wasn’t a fluke of shooting percentage or luck — he was legitimately one of the top players on the ice in many games early on. His struggles in the second half of the season and trying to make an impact in a reduced role were very real, but across the board it was a productive and positive season for Rodrigues.
Based on some of the breakouts above, if you’re Evan Rodrigues you might have to wonder if the most ideal situation next season would be finding a team to sign with that would use him as a second or third line center, and get more dedicated power play time. Pittsburgh already has Sidney Crosby, Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger signed and said re-signing Evgeni Malkin is a priority. If Rodrigues gets the best place, he could probably replicate another 20ish goal, 45 point season in the right situation. But what could Pittsburgh offer him, a second line role? Somewhere on the third?
Question to ponder
How much should the Pens prioritize bringing Rodrigues back? With other needs and bigger questions left to resolve, where does Rodrigues fit in moving forward?
How would you grade Evan Rodrigues’ 2021-22 season?
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