If you’re a fan of Avs identified in Evan Rodrigues as the man tasked with filling a hole the size of Nazim Qadri in coach Jared Bednar’s top six, you might want to keep this eraser on hand.
“(You) are just playing your own game,” Rodriguez, who signed A $2M 1-year free agent deal with Colorado on September 12he said during the first day of Avs training camp Thursday.
“You can’t focus on the media, or what the fans are saying or anything like that. You have to stay in your head and stay confident… I’m just here to help this team win games. So whatever the coach needs from me in attack and defense And power play and penalty kicks – wherever you want to be in the squad – I’m just here to try and help this team win. I keep it that simple.”
Like 31-year-old Kadri, who last month secured a seven-year, $49 million contract from Calgary, 28-year-old Rodriguez is coming off his best career season. The former Pittsburgh Penguin scored the highest in the National Hockey League in a single season in goals (19), assists (24), points (43), Power-play goals (seven), games (82) and average ice time (15: 50 per match).
“I’ve always had the kind of mindset that I feel more confident when the disc is on my sticks, and I love owning the disc and doing plays,” Rodriguez explained. “And last year I played position, played the first six minutes, got the puck a lot, it reinforced that belief that when I have a puck… when I play with confidence, I can play to the best of them. And I try to keep having that mentality, because I believe Its totally in my head.
“I know that when I play with confidence, that’s what I play my best hockey game.”
Bednar expressed great confidence in his new striker early on, pairing him early in the first practice of the day on a streak with Alex Newhawk and test candidate Alex Galchenyuk, another veteran center choice with showdown experience.
“I liked him very much (Thursday),” Bednar said with a smile when asked about Rodriguez’s debut. “Good puck poise and patience, (a) an intelligent player with the ability to pass and shoot. I thought he made some great plays there, even in the small area – even in the end, he made some great plays. (He) is an elusive guy, he got some cheats.” He’s really good at his game. So he’d be a really nice addition, especially when you look at some of the players who might be out of the squad to start the season.”
New faces like Rodriguez could be crucial in the early part of the year for Bednar, who said on Thursday captain Gabe Landskog “won’t be skating anytime soon” due to a lengthy lower-body injury he sustained late last season.
The coach said the injury could “certainly” delay Landeskog’s start to the 2022-23 regular season, which begins October 13 against Chicago at the Ball Arena.
The opportunity for minutes, especially in the fall, was part of what made Avs an attractive destination for Rodriguez, whose tire (5ft-11, 184lbs), acceleration and stickiness work with Kadri, although not physically. Or as good defensively as the previous Avs position.
“No one in this room is going to say, ‘I just want to play for 10 minutes (per game).'” They would be lying to you (if they did). But you do what is required of you, and at the end of the day, winning is the most important thing. So (if) it helps,” said Rodriguez, who scored 30 of 43 points last season before Jan. 8. If the team wins, you will achieve success.”