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King of Engelland

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s been a long road, but Deryk Engelland’s hard work has paid off.

The Penguins defenseman, in his first full season with the team, was rewarded Monday with a three-year contract extension.

Engelland has made a lot of stops over his eight-year career, spending time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Lowell and Hershey of the American Hockey League, as well as Las Vegas, South Carolina and Reading of the East Coast Hockey League.

His path to the NHL hasn’t been easy. But as Vince Lombardi once said, “Hard work is the price one must pay for success.”

And did Engelland ever work hard.

“Being in the ECHL and now finally here, it took eight years to get here but it was worth the wait for sure,” he said. “It couldn’t be any more exciting for me and my family. It’s a good accomplishment.”

"Deryk is a guy that came from the East Coast Hockey League and has been battling and working to get better," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "He’s been in our organization a long time doing that. And he did the hard way. This year, he earned a regular spot on our lineup in the National Hockey League. It’s great for him, and it’s great for us to have him locked up for three years.

Engelland, who signed with the Pittsburgh organization in the summer of 2007 as a free agent, had spent the previous three campaigns with WBS prior to cracking the lineup this season. He made his NHL debut in 2009-10 at age 27, appearing in a total of nine games for the Penguins.

That glimpse of life in the NHL motivated Engelland to take his game to a whole different level.

“I got a little bit of a taste of (the NHL) last year,” he said. “Training, nutrition, everything like that was a big part of my summer. I got a good trainer, Mark Philippi, and it helped me out a lot coming into camp. I’ve been in the best shape I’ve been in so far.”

And everyone noticed.

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“His commitment to off-season conditioning this season I think really put him over the hump,” forward Mark Letestu said. “He came in pretty lean and ready to go this year, and I think it shows in his play ... I think he’s really come prepared for his role and I think he’s well-deserving of this extension.”

Through 32 games, Engelland leads the team with 76 penalty minutes. He’s always had that physical edge to his game, but now he’s proven that he can bring that toughness night in and night out – a welcome addition to a Penguins defensive corps that are better known for their mobility and puck-moving skills.

“The biggest surprise on the year for Deryk and the thing that’s kept him in the lineup the most, his pugilistic achievements have been pretty big,” Bylsma said. “He’s surprised us in that regard ... Him being on the ice against good players, defending well, but also holding them accountable physically, finishing his check and being a tough guy to play against in his zone is something he’s shown he can do.”

But Bylsma also cited Engelland’s offseason conditioning as what helped make him the total package.

“Deryk did a pretty significant job of changing his body-type in terms of his strength and body fat,” Bylsma said. “He was a guy that was carrying an extra pound or two. This summer he made a real commitment ... Coming into camp there was a noticeable difference in his skating and footspeed.”

His teammates couldn’t be happier for Engelland.

“He’s definitely earned it,” his defense partner Alex Goligoski said. “He’s worked so hard. Just from when we started playing together in WBS when I started and first met him, I think his game has only gotten better. It seems like he keeps improving every year.”

“He's one of those guys that has worked for everything he’s earned here,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “He started in the East Coast Hockey League and worked his way up. He’s as humble as they come, and just comes in here and works his (butt) off every day ... He’s a guy that’s never going to complain about anything and he’s a really good teammate. I’m sure everyone here is extremely happy for him.”
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