- Deryk Engelland has stepped up to help the Penguins get through early-season injuries to Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek.
- Engelland adds a physical and enforcer presence that makes him unique to the Penguins’ blue line.
- Fights like the one Engelland had with heavyweight Colton Orr on Oct. 13 have earned him respect throughout the league.
The injuries that knocked shutdown blueliners Brooks Orpik
(groin) and Zbynek Michalek
(upper-body) from the lineup within the first three games of the season might have been devastating for some teams.
When you are an organization like the Penguins, which prides itself upon having a deep defensive corps, it simply means the next man on the depth chart steps up and keeps the ship steered in the right direction.
First-year defenseman Deryk Engelland
has stepped to the forefront and filled in admirably, even earning himself a little notoriety around the league thanks to the physical element he provides.
“Deryk has made some strides off the ice and away from the rink the last two years,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He still adds that grit and bite to playing defense. He’s playing physical. He’s hitting skilled guys in the corners. He’s playing hard on them. He still has the toughness element that you’ve seen the last couple of games.”
Adding grit and toughness to the Penguins lineup is something that Engelland first offered in a cameo appearance with the team last November when injuries ravaged the blue line. Engelland was so impressive in his brief nine-game stint last year that he entered this season’s training camp as a frontrunner to capture one of the team’s two defensive openings.
Not only did Engelland work hard enough over the summer and in camp to put himself in position to make the opening-day roster, he was also on the ice in uniform when the season began on Oct. 7 at CONSOL Energy Center.
Since that time, his ever-improving play and the team’s injuries have combined to earn Engelland extra playing time. Such on-the-job training is helping Engelland continue to build upon the success he has had.
“The more ice time you get, the better you feel every shift,” Engelland said. “It’s about just getting more and more experience every game you play. I’m just trying to get better every day in practice and take that into games.”
As Engelland continues to gain experience, he is quickly establishing himself as one of the toughest customers in the National Hockey League.
Engelland has always prided himself on being a good and willing fighter – an attribute that makes him unique to any of the team’s other defensemen.
“That’s what has gotten me here,” Engelland said. “I can’t stop doing it for any amount of time. We need that element on the back end, so I don’t mind doing it. It’s fun most of the time. It’s been good for me so far.”
On Oct. 13, when the Penguins hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs, Engelland earned himself plenty of respect not only in his own locker room, but around the league, when he dropped the gloves in the second period with premier heavyweight Colton Orr.
Engelland not only held his own in the bout, he delivered Orr a knockout punch to the jaw that would have made Muhammad Ali proud.
“Just going against a guy like that – he is so well-known around the league,” Engelland said. “He is one of the top heavyweights. He’ll go with anyone.
“I was able to land a solid punch on him. I definitely think there was a bit of luck to land that clean of a shot on a guy like that. That was probably the top fight of my career for sure.”
Engelland’s KO of Orr quickly made the 28-year-old defenseman a Youtube sensation. The blow was so impressive that even ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon spent a two-minute segment describing it on their popular daily show, Pardon the Interruption.
“That’s huge for me to be able to be mentioned on a show like that,” Engelland said. “It’s good exposure. I’m trying to make a name for myself. I guess that’s a good way to do it.”