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Engelland Trains Hard In Hopes Of Cracking Opening Night Roster

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Takeaway:

> Deryk Engelland saw his first NHL action last season following five-plus minor-league seasons.
> Engelland is training even harder this summer in hopes of securing an NHL roster spot out of training camp.
> Engelland plays the game with an abrasive style that differs from most of the Penguins' other defensemen.
> Engelland's style of play compares favorably to former Penguins defenseman Bob Boughner.

Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland’s journey to the National Hockey League hit a few more detours along the way than most players.

Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland is training hard this summer in hopes of making the Penguins' opening night roster. Credit - Getty Images
Prior to debuting with the Penguins last November, the 28-year-old blueliner spent five-plus seasons toiling in minor league outposts such as North Charleston, South Carolina; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Reading, Pennsylvania, while shuffling between the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League.  

All that hard work and travel paid off when Engelland realized his childhood dream by pulling on a Penguins sweater for the first time on November 10, 2009 against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in Boston.

Over the course of the next nine games Engelland would not only provide the Penguins with a healthy body along an injury-plagued defensive corps, he also proved to Penguins management that he has the requisite skills to compete for full-time NHL duty in 2010-11.

“I learned a lot from that stint in Pittsburgh,” said Engelland last week as he visited Pittsburgh to help serve as one of the guest instructors at the Penguins Hockey Camp at the RMU Island Sports Center. “Finally getting that shot to play and get my first game in really makes you want it that much more. Now my focus is on making the team and being able to stick around all season.”

To successfully earn a spot on the big squad at the start of season, Engelland will have to battle the likes of Ben Lovejoy, Steve Wagner, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo, and free agent additions Andrew Hutchinson and Corey Potter for the one or two openings which remain behind the team’s projected top-five of Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.

With that goal in mind, and knowing the stakes that will come from the healthy competition that is going to exist during training camp, Engelland has spent more time than ever this offseason preparing himself off the ice to be in the best condition of his career.

“I have made a lot of sacrifices this summer,” Engelland said. “I have spent a lot of time working out and have used my down time to not do very much so that I properly recover from last season. Hopefully in the long run it pays off.”

Should Engelland, who posted two assists and picked up 17 penalty minutes in nine games with Pittsburgh last year, crack the Penguins’ final roster he figures to bring a tenacious, physical element that differs from any of the defensemen in the top-five.

While Orpik can dish out big hits and clear the front of Marc-Andre Fleury’s crease with the best defenders in the NHL, his game doesn’t have the same pugilistic edge that Engelland’s possesses. Engelland has an even more in-your-face ruggedness and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves when the opportunity presents itself, a fact his 405 penalty minutes the past three seasons with the Penguins’ top minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton suggests.

A great comparison to Engelland is former Penguins defenseman Bob Boughner, who spent a year and a half in Pittsburgh from 2000-01.

Not only are the two similar in size (Engelland: 6-foot-2, 202 pounds; Boughner: 6-foot, 206 pounds),  but they also followed a similar career path. Boughner spent five years shuttling between the AHL and ECHL before earning full-time NHL duty in 1995-96 with the Buffalo Sabres.

When Boughner finally reached the NHL, his ability to combine his physical play with a sound, simple defensive game allowed him to have a successful 10-year NHL career.

Engelland hopes a similar style will pay off for him in the coming weeks.

“I just have to stick to my game right from the start of camp,” Engelland said. “I play a simple game where I move the puck and make a good first pass. I definitely have to play physical and not shy away from fighting or anything like that.

“If you look down at the depth chart, there are not too many guys who play the way that I do. Hopefully they think that they need some of that this year.”

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