With the No. 2 overall pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft, the Buffalo Sabres are expected to select Jack Eichel, the American phenom who just completed his freshman year at Boston University, winning nearly everything known to college hockey with the exception of a national championship.
Perhaps the Sabres wanted to make leaving college early a tad easier for Eichel. The team officially announced on Wednesday it has signed Eichel’s linemate, senior free agent Evan Rodrigues, to a two-year entry-level contract.
“Evan is a very talented young player who has displayed exceptional growth during his four years at BU,” Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said in a statement issued by the team. “We look forward to adding another talented piece to our group.”
In some respects, Rodrigues played in the shadow of a talented freshman class at Boston University, particularly the one cast by Eichel. The forward from Etobicoke, Ont., was at times overlooked as the attention stayed on Eichel.
But in other respects, it was playing with Eichel that boosted his career. It certainly helped his on-ice production. Rodrigues ranked second in the nation in scoring with 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists). Consider that in his first three seasons he combined for 60 points. His previous season-best was his sophomore year when he tallied 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists).
“It’s been incredible” playing with Eichel, Rodrigues told the Toronto Globe and Mail earlier this month. “I’m enjoying every second of playing with him. As good as he is, off the ice, he’s humble, a great teammate and he’s become a leader in our locker room.”
Of course, Rodrigues was a leader in the room as well, something that did not go unnoticed by his teammates.
“Obviously, we have great young talent, but to have a senior who can really deliver consistently?” BU junior goalie Matt O’Connor said to USCHO.com. “He’s one of those players that you know is going to deliver every night. Maybe he goes unnoticed, but he definitely doesn’t for a lot of the guys in the room.”
Rodrigues was an assistant captain for BU and his four points (three goals, one assist) in the NCAA Tournament earned him Most Outstanding Player of the Northeast Regional honors.
While the Terriers did not win the national championship, falling to Providence in the title game, they created an incredible turnaround. As a junior, Rodrigues managed just 14 points and BU was a lowly 10-21 overall. This past season, he exploded offensively and was at the core of the improvement, even if Eichel got all the headlines.
“Evan really is a microcosm of the last two years,” BU coach David Quinn said to the Boston Globe. “Fourteen points, ninth-place finish, 10-21 record. Sixty-plus points, the championships we’ve won, and the Frozen Four. We’re going to miss him.”