He’s worn the jersey before. But not on this level.
Rod, just 29 months removed from playing a starring role for Switzerland at the 2016 World Junior Championship, has grown his game. An assistant captain at that tournament two years ago, he finished with four goals and six points in six games and was named one of Switzerland’s top-three players. Not surprisingly, it followed a performance in 2015 where Rod had three goals and six points in six games, and was, yes, named one of his country’s top-three players.
Sharks forward Timo Meier was there to experience both.
He’s with Rod to experience his latest spin, and has been able to chart the strides his teammate has made in his game over time.
“It’s grown a lot,” said Meier, who combined for four goals and 11 points over two trips to the World Juniors with Rod.
“He’s a strong body that’s really fast. He plays an aggressive style of game that fits well into the North American style. I’m really excited to see him continue to grow. We’re really close friends. It’s been fun to watch him take big steps.
“We always try to push each other.”
It hasn’t been since those World Juniors in 2016 that the pair has been international teammates.
The opportunity arose when Meier joined Switzerland after his season in San Jose ended in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But Rod learned well in advance that he’d be suiting up for the Swiss.
“I knew I was going to go to the preparation camp, and then after a couple games I could see I had a good chance to make the team,” said Rod, who had four points in a nine-game stint late this season with the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks American Hockey League affiliate.
“I just kept working, and that’s it.
“I was proud to represent my country at the Worlds and I was really happy to make the World Championship. I’m just proud and happy.”
His experience, which will continue with Switzerland advancing to a quarterfinal date against Finland on Thursday, is doubling as an opportunity to test himself against some of the best talent in the world.
And Rod has been able to gauge how far an NHL stay.
“I mean, you’re playing against better players here,” said Rod, who also skated with Switzerland alongside Meier at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, and without him as an assistant captain on the Swiss entry at the 2014 World Under-18 Championship.
“For sure, it’s more like the NHL here.
“For sure it’s helped me looking forward to San Jose, one day.”
It won’t be next season for Rod, though. He’s committed to stay with Genève-Servette HC, his team in Switzerland, for next season. The 21-year-old just wrapped his third season with Genève, a 25-game stint that saw him record seven goals and nine points.
He’ll make it a fourth year in Switzerland’s top league.
Meier, though, thinks it won’t be long before he sees his buddy back in San Jose.
With the Sharks.
“I really hope for him,” Meier said. “He’s taking the Swiss way. He’s playing in Switzerland, the highest league there. There are different paths to go to the NHL. For us, we were playing together when we were 14. Our goal was to play in the NHL someday.
“We’re both excited. We’ve come a far way.
“I’m hoping to see him over there real soon.”