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Brandon Pirri faces uphill battle to make Golden Knights roster

Brandon Pirri is wise enough at this point in his career to know what he’s up against.

“This league’s all about, ‘What can you do for me?’ ” he said.

In the case of Pirri, he can score goals. That’s never been an issue for the 27-year-old Toronto native.

But Pirri is the first to admit he also has limitations to his game. His skills are best suited to the role of a top-six forward and power-play specialist, which leaves him facing an uphill battle to make the Golden Knights’ 23-man roster.

Pirri will not be in the lineup when Knights host Arizona at 5 p.m. Sunday at T-Mobile Arena in the exhibition opener.

SHORT DESCRIPTION (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

“I don’t know which way they’re going, but if I do well in camp, you want to force their hand and make them make a tough decision,” Pirri said Saturday after practice at City National Arena.

“I try not to worry about that. When I was younger, I’d stress out about that stuff. And now, I’m just having fun with it. After last year, I got back to really enjoying the game playing meaningful minutes, and I’m just fortunate to get to play.”

Pirri was signed to a two-way contract by the Knights last season after he failed to latch on with the Florida Panthers following a professional tryout.

Pirri was assigned to Chicago of the American Hockey League and tied for the team lead with 29 goals in 57 games.

He earned a late-season call-up by the Knights and netted three goals in two games, including a two-goal effort in the Knights’ 5-4 shootout victory at Vancouver on April 3.

“He’s a shooter. He’s always looking to score,” said Knights forward Tomas Hyka, one of Pirri’s linemates in Chicago. “You can see when he’s got the puck, the first thing he wants to do is shoot the puck and score goals.”

Pirri was a second-round pick by Chicago in 2009 and posted big numbers in the AHL, but he couldn’t crack a Blackhawks roster that was in the middle of winning three Stanley Cups from 2010 to 2015.

His best season came with Florida in 2014-15 when Pirri tallied 22 goals in 49 games under coach Gerard Gallant.

“I know what he brings. He’s a goal scorer, and that’s what he does real well,” Gallant said. “There’s some knocks about his game, obviously, and that’s why he hasn’t played full time in the NHL. But he’s a character guy who every time we called him up he seemed to put the puck in the back of the net.”

Pirri’s commitment on the defensive side of the puck has been questioned throughout his pro career, and he hasn’t been able to establish himself at the NHL level.

In parts of nine seasons with four teams, Pirri has 101 points (60 goals, 41 assists) in 226 career NHL appearances.

“I’m not a fourth-liner. I can’t go out there and bang. I’m just not physically wired like that,” Pirri said. “For me, it’s more of a puck-possession game, capitalize on the opportunities.”

Pirri signed a two-way contract with the Knights in June, though his path to the NHL is blocked by more established forwards.

The Knights have a spot open for a third-line winger, and Pirri could be an option for Gallant.

During Saturday’s scrimmage, Pirri skated on a line with center Paul Stastny and winger Reilly Smith and was turned away on two scoring chances from close range.

“I know that probably I’ve got to beat someone out to make the team, but I’d be cheating myself if I wasn’t coming here trying to make this team,” Pirri said. “I’m going to do everything I can to at least try to make the decision really hard on them. That seemed like the theme last year for these guys is they all just got a chance, and I’m looking for that same thing.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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