The first phone call Deryk Engelland received from the Golden Knights came on a Sunday.
The second call didn’t come until the eve of the NHL expansion draft.
“I think it was two days of my wife pacing around the house until we heard back from them,” Engelland said. “It was a long two days, but it was well worth the wait.”
Engelland, a longtime valley resident, will see his pro hockey career come full circle this season.
After starting out with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers in 2003, the 35-year-old defenseman is back in his adopted hometown and hoping to finish his career with the Knights.
“To start here in the East Coast (Hockey League) with the first year (it) was here, and to be able to be part of this the first year the NHL is here is pretty special,” Engelland said. “Probably not too many guys can say they’ve done that, and it’s a great honor to be part of this team, and I’m looking forward to the season.”
Engelland played two seasons with the Wranglers — he met his wife, Melissa, during that time — and spent five more seasons in the minors before finally reaching the NHL with Pittsburgh in 2009.
Engelland played five seasons with the Penguins, then signed a three-year deal with Calgary in 2014 as a free agent.
Knights general manager George McPhee could have opted for another player on the Flames’ unprotected list in the expansion draft and pursued Engelland in free agency. But he chose Engelland instead and signed the rugged, 6-foot-2-inch, 214-pounder to a one-year, $1 million contract.
“He’s been very helpful to a lot of people with his knowledge of Las Vegas,” McPhee said. “But it’s not just his familiarity with Las Vegas. We like the way he plays and the leadership he provides.”
Engelland and his wife received multiple texts and phone calls after the expansion draft from teammates, wives and girlfriends seeking information about their new city.
Need to find a house? Engelland can help.
Know of a good babysitter? Ask Engelland.
“Usually you come into a team and there’s a lot of guys that you can contact about the city. Unfortunately for Deryk, there’s only one guy,” Knights defenseman Jason Garrison said. “He’s a leader on and off the ice. He’s going to help guys out, whether it’s older guys like myself or younger guys coming in. We’re very fortunate to have a resource like that.”
Engelland represented the Knights at multiple charity functions this summer and organized the Knights’ informal practices before the start of training camp.
While McPhee said the Knights might not name a captain in their first year, Engelland will be counted on to lead in the locker room regardless.
“We’re going to have a veteran group of players that are going to be our leadership group,” said coach Gerard Gallant. “We want (those) guys to be good people. We want them to help our young kids be better players, and he’s one of those guys.”
Engelland had four goals and 16 points last season in Calgary but is known for his physical play. In 469 career NHL games, he has compiled 500 penalty minutes.
That combative style should further endear Engelland to local hockey fans.
“I started my pro career here, and hopefully we’ll finish it here,” Engelland said. “It’s pretty amazing, and sometimes it’s still a little shocking where we’re at now. I take a lot of pride in it, and I’m very grateful.”