Deryk Engelland’s willingness to fight for his teammates and pile up penalty minutes is what helped the Golden Knights defenseman reach the NHL.
It’s ironic that he’s lasted in the league by staying out of the box.
“He’s changed his game on us. I don’t know what’s going on with him,” coach Gerard Gallant joked. “He’s playing soft.”
Engelland, a longtime Las Vegas resident, will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer and said he has no plans to stop playing.
After last season’s run to the final with the Knights, he is hungrier than ever to hoist the Stanley Cup as they embark on a second postseason beginning Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks.
“I’m not banged up or anything like that. If you talk to anyone that’s done, they tell you play as long as you can,” he said. “Right now, I’m worried about playoffs, and if you’re playing well, that will all take care of itself.”
Engelland remains one of the toughest guys on the block, even in the latter stages of his career.
But with fewer enforcers remaining, the 37-year-old has evolved with the modern game and finished this season with a career low in penalty minutes.
“I think fighting definitely got me where I’m at now, sticking up for teammates and stuff,” Engelland said. “I think if you look back, I tried not to take too many minor penalties before. It was mostly majors and stuff like that. With no fighting majors, your penalty minutes stay down.”
Engelland forged a reputation in the minors as a feared fighter and posted three straight seasons with at least 120 penalty minutes for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate, from 2008 to 2010.
He fought 36 times during his five seasons with Pittsburgh, according to HockeyFights.com, and had a career-high 123 penalty minutes in 2010-11.
Engelland added another 18 fights in three seasons with the Flames, per HockeyFights.com, but he hasn’t logged a fighting major in two seasons with the Knights. (Engelland did drop the gloves on two occasions during the past two preseasons.)
“He’s played real good, real solid, and I think he’s got a reputation out there that people know if they want to mess around, he’s still a willing combatant,” Gallant said. “We love the way he’s playing. He’s an important player. He doesn’t take bad penalties, he’s not in the penalty box, and that’s what the game’s all about.”
Engelland went more than three months (Dec. 23 to March 27) without taking a penalty, then had three minors in his final five appearances to finish with 18 penalty minutes in 74 games.
The only Knights defensemen with fewer penalty minutes were Nate Schmidt (eight in 61 games) and Nick Holden (14 in 61 games).
In his first season with the Knights, Engelland had 24 penalty minutes in 79 games.
“A big part of my game is killing penalties, and if I’m in the box, I can’t do it,” Engelland said. “When you’re out of position or maybe behind the play a little bit, that’s when you’re reaching in and doing stuff like that. I’m just trying to keep the position good and, hopefully, keep the penalties down.”