|Forward Brandon Pirri has posted five points (3-2-5) in his first seven games in a Panthers uniform. (Getty Images)
The Panthers Young Gun forward discusses his first couple of weeks with the Cats after coming over in a trade, the transition from college to the pros, what he likes to do on his off days and more.
You were acquired back in early March from Chicago. Was the trade a surprise at all?
Pirri - There were rumblings that I could have been moved. I tried not to worry about it as it's something I can't control. I'm really happy that I was put in this position to come here to Florida. It's a great organization and these first couple of games, I've had an opportunity to play a lot and that's what I was looking for.
Talk about that playing time, how have you approached it with these games down the stretch?
Pirri - This team is trying to find its identity right now and guys are trying to earn positions for next year and become fulltime NHL guys. For me, it's just playing within myself and playing a solid 200-foot game in all three zones. I'm an offensive guy so that stuff takes care of itself. It's just that work ethic and playing for a full 60 minutes. If you do that then the rest will take care of itself.
Being acquired by Dale Tallon, the GM that drafted you and having him trade for you, does that instill a lot of confidence in you?
Pirri - Absolutely. It was really exciting finding out that I got traded here. Dale called me after it happened. I was really excited just because it shows a lot of trust in him to make moves for me and I just want to repay the favor and show that he made the right move.
You've got a couple of guys that you know really well as there are a couple of former Blackhawks players on the team (including Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Dylan Olsen and Jimmy Hayes). Does that make the transition a lot easier for you?
Pirri - Yes, absolutely. Certainly, coming here where there's been a lot of guys that have come from the Blackhawks and spend their summers in Chicago, it made me feel at home right away. I think that's huge for my confidence and feeling comfortable quickly.
What are your first impressions on the rest of your new teammates and the organization?
Pirri - It's been a lot of fun. It's a young group in here and there's a lot of talent. We're moving in the right direction these first few games. The guys are changing the culture around here and we expect to win. The future is bright around here.
Talk about the transition from college and the AHL to the NHL ranks.
Pirri - It's definitely a different experience turning pro at 19. Not a lot of guys do it. I was fortunate enough to be put in a good situation in Rockford and I think getting that rookie year out of the way was good for me. Now, being a fourth year pro, I have that maturity on and off the ice that you need to be a good full year pro.
|Panthers forward Brandon Pirri skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum (Getty Images) |
You only spent one year at college playing for RPI. Why did you decide to turn pro after one season?
Pirri - It's every kid's dream to play in the NHL and I had an opportunity to sign with the Blackhawks. Those opportunities don't come along too often so I had to jump at that. It was a lot of fun and it was the right decision for me.
What did you learn from being part of the Blackhawks organization during a time when they won two Stanley Cups?
Pirri - Being around those guys, it's a championship organization so you learn how to win and you get that mentality that you expect nothing less than to win. It was a lot of fun but at the same time I'm really excited to be here with this opportunity to be a full time NHL player.
Is there one piece of advice that you took away from one of the Hawks players or coaches while you were there?
Pirri - Yeah – they taught me just to try and not to do too much. You're signed as a professional player and they want you on the team and staying within yourself and trying to play for the team instead of yourself. If you're staying within yourself and all 20 guys that are on the ice and on the bench playing for the team, then that helps your team pull in the right direction.
You have an off day. How are you spending it?
Pirri - I’m just hanging out with the boys most likely. Get some sun. You don't get too much sun around this time up north in Toronto or Chicago so you have to take advantage of that.
Have you found any good places to eat in South Florida yet?
Pirri - I don't have a car yet so I'm riding around with these guys. They've taken me to Fort Lauderdale a couple of times to eat.
What's that like, carpooling with the guys?
Pirri - It's a lot of fun. With all of the young guys living in the same building there, it's a good experience. We get a lot closer. It's fun and we're all trying to move in the same direction and that's the key.