The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. six writers and 718 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of July 1, 2018 in the Buffalo Sabres organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
When the Buffalo Sabres signed Evan Rodrigues as a collegiate free-agent just two months before the 2015 Entry Draft (where they would go on to select one of his linemates at Boston University in Jack Eichel with the second overall pick), fans speculated as to whether or not he would ever make an impact at the NHL level. Sure, his senior season in the NCAA was impressive, but it was unclear just how much of that had to do with Eichel’s presence. His performance during the 2017-18 campaign quelled that concern once and for all as he exceeded expectations as one of the few bright spots on the Sabres’ roster.
After suffering a hand injury during a preseason contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs last year, Rodrigues started the season on injured reserve. Once he was ready to return to the ice, he was sent to the AHL where he only spent eight games (while registering 10 points) before receiving a call-up on December 5.
Though there were ups-and-downs as he got re-acclimated to NHL action (which included a nine game stretch where he failed to register a point), as the season wore on, it became clear that he was ready to assume a full-time role with the Sabres. His speed and versatility were a breath of fresh air on a team that had been criticized for their deficiencies in transition.
Projected over the course of a full season, his 43 point pace would have ranked him fifth on the Buffalo roster. From an analytics standpoint, his Relative Corsi percentage of 3.64 was good for fourth-best on the team among players who dressed for more than 20 games.
Leading up to the offseason, it was speculated that Rodrigues could be forced into a top-six role due to the organization’s distinct lack of talent on the wing. Fortunately, Jason Botterill was steadfast in his effort to address that deficiency with the acquisition of players like Conor Sheary and Jeff Skinner.
As it stands, Rodrigues will almost certainly serve in a bottom-six capacity this season, a testament to the Sabres’ improved depth at forward. It remains to be seen just who he ends up skating with given the fact that the team could realistically dress up to eight new forwards on opening night. Either way, he’ll look to continue to improve his offensive production as he approaches a contract year.