Friday, October 21, 2016

Evan Rodrigues vs Toronto Marlies 10/21/2106 (Grade B+)

In tonights 5-2 victory against the Marlies I saw more good things than I have in any other game the Amerks have played this year. Ullmark played his best game this year saving 32 of 34 shots. The Amerks generated a lot of offense from the point, especially on the power play. Most importantly even though there were still stretches of sloppy play, they were able to eliminate turnovers in the neutral zone that led to so many goals against the Crunch. Tonight I spotlighted Evan Rodrigues and I think he played a great game overall. As a result I'm giving him my highest grade of the year so far, a B+.

Rodrigues was an immediate spark coming off the bench. He was able to enter the zone in a dangerous position, and his net drive gave him a chance at a goal. After retrieving the puck he made a great attempt to bank the puck of the Marlies net-minder as he returned to the goal. Unfortunately he was only able to muster one more shot tonight on a soft back-hander into the chest of the goalie. As the game wore on Rodrigues seemed very fatigued. He was knocked off the puck much easier, and wasn't able to do much more than dump the puck into the zone and hope for the best. However he was still able to make a huge impact on the game. 

Rodrigues was arguably the best two way hockey player on the ice tonight. He had an active stick in the passing lanes making zone entry difficult (even more so when shorthanded). He was a ferocious fore checking presence making multiple plays in the offensive zone. One play stood out in particular when he took on three separate Marlies harassing each player until he stole the puck. Then he beat a defender and drew a penalty. Just when it seemed he had completely run out of energy, he made a great poke check in the dying moments of the game that sprung Catenacci for an empty net goal to put the game away.

The last thing I noticed was the amount of gamesmanship that Evan showed tonight. He's the type of player I would love to watch mic'ed up because of his ability to agitate opponents. Weather it was a slight cross check to the back of a forward lingering around the net, or the occasional slash to the calf of a defenseman going for a line change, the old school hockey fan in me couldn't help but crack a smile. I don't doubt that the frustration he was able to create tonight could have been responsible for some tempers flaring up, along with the discrepancy in penalty minuets between the Amerks and the Marlies. 

Not only do I feel Rodrigues has asserted himself as a legitimate AHL player, but I think he has laid the groundwork for the establishment of his NHL identity. He can still use a bit of polish as far as his offensive skills are concerned, and I think based on his high energy style he would benefit from some work on his fitness. But I think he has the potential to become an Antoine Roussel type player. I think sometime in the near future he will be able to bring the type of energy to a teams 4th line and penalty kill that could set him up for a long successful NHL career. 

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