Rodrigues finds perfect fit in first season with Panthers

Taking his game to the next level with the Florida Panthers, Evan Rodrigues is aiming to go all the way with the 2023-24 Atlantic Division champions.

Rodrigues finds perfect fit in first season with Panthers

Feature Photo: Getty Images

Based on his body of work and reputation as a player prized for his versatility, Evan Rodrigues being a perfect fit with the Florida Panthers is hardly a surprise.

The undrafted forward and his jack-of-all-trades game has served him and his teammates well during every stop in his NHL career whether it was the time he spent with the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins or Colorado Avalanche.

The 30-year old has applied his signature style to his first season with the Panthers the team he signed a four-year deal with as a free agent on July 2.

"Rodrigues brings skill and the ability to compete in three zones of the ice," said current president of hockey operations, Bill Zito, in a media release announcing the signing. “A culture fit and someone who adds versatility to our lineup, we can't wait to welcome Evan to the Panthers.”

The feeling was mutual.

“A big thing for me when I got here was to come in and compete hard,” Rodrigues told

“As long as I put in the effort, I knew I would get the respect of the players and coaches. That’s what this team is based on wearing teams down without trying to be too fancy.”

Rodrigues has been a consistent contributor with the Panthers. Along with his 39 points, 12 of them goals, Rodrigues has complemented the offensive side with solid defensive play highlighted by a +26 rating and a career-best 104 hits.

It adds up to a prototypical Rodrigues season.

“I have been fortunate enough to have good chemistry with whoever I have played with, and it was something that has developed throughout the year.

“I started the year with Sam Reinhart, who I played with a little bit in Buffalo, and that made my transition here easier as well.

“As the year went on and you practice more, you start to click and it just goes on naturally from there.”

His penchant for playing an impactful role extends beyond the regular season.

In his 16 career playoff contests, Rodrigues has four goals, including one short-handed tally, to go along with seven assists.

Rodrigues, who has never made it past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, believes the Panthers are built for a long postseason run.

“We are a hard team to play against I think a lot of players in the league would say they don’t like us.”

It is why the chance to play with and not against the Panthers has been a welcome one.

“They kept you on your toes,” he said with a laugh.

“You hate being on the other side, but when I signed here, you love everything about it.”

Rodrigues, who played four seasons at Boston University, likened his teammates to his two sons, Grayson and Noah, who have become social media stars for the pregame ritual they share with their father.

“My boys are high-energy, and they never seem to slow down. I guess the best way to describe them at those times would be that they are rascals.

“And that’s what the guys on this team are like rascals. They are fun-loving, happy and you just love to be around them.”

Both Evan and his young family are enjoying life to the fullest in the Sunshine State.

Off the ice, the father of three (he and his wife, Christina, welcomed daughter Ella Grace last August) is feeling right at home.

“It’s been perfect.

“My boys are getting older, and we have our young daughter, so it’s been nice to have great weather for us to enjoy together.”

Ideal conditions for a Stanley Cup parade?

“That is the goal.”

The quest for Florida starts April 21 when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning for puck drop on the First Round.

Rodrigues is eager, to say the least.

“I think my game has grown this year and taken another step, especially on the defensive side.

“I feel very fortunate to have found such a good fit with this group here in Florida.

“Definitely looking forward to getting things going in the playoffs and taking it to the next level.”