Player Profiles is a series that I'll complete periodically throughout the year. This series will be used to help tell the story and career of each current Golden Knight. These will be done in ascending jersey number order, starting with #3 Brayden McNabb and ending with #92 Tomas Nosek.
Deryk Engelland (USA Today Sports)
Perseverance, leadership, determination. These are the three words I would use to sum up Vegas Golden Knights defenseman, Deryk Engelland. Never regarded as the greatest player on the ice, Engelland has put in his time over the years to get to the place he is today. Now with Vegas, Engelland fills an important role in the Golden Knights’ locker room, lineup, and city.
Many Golden Knight fans know Deryk as the man he is today, the man who stood up in the face of tragedy and delivered a heartfelt speech to the crowd, before the first ever NHL home game in Las Vegas. With more on that later, it is important to cover the formative playing years of Deryk Engelland’s career. This man did not simply get drafted and head straight to the NHL. No, Deryk Engelland had to scratch, claw, and literally fight to get to this point in his career.
Twenty years ago, the Alberta, Canada native got his start in Canadian juniors, at the age of 16. Yes, a whole twenty years ago. Naturally, he grew up playing hockey, but his Western Hockey League (WHL) debut came back in 1998, with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Deryk spent four full seasons with the Warriors, getting drafted in his time there. Engelland was taken in the sixth round of the 2000 entry draft, by the New Jersey Devils, a team that emphasized and popularized a trap-style defensive strategy during that time. Following his draft, Engelland spent two more seasons in Moose Jaw, honing his craft, before his jump to the pros, during the 2003-04 season. During that season, he played a total of 61 games, with the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL and the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. During his time with the Wranglers, Engelland built a following due to his willingness to defend his teammates and participate in the physical side of the game, hitting and fighting when necessary. Engelland has always played the game with an edge, as a stay-at-home defenseman.
In his first professional season, Engelland went up and down between the AHL and ECHL. In the following season (2004), he played a total of 72 games with the Wranglers. During his time in Las Vegas, Deryk met his eventual wife, planting roots in the city he’d eventually end up playing in again, a short thirteen years later. Between 2005-2009, Deryk spent time with the Hershey Bears (AHL), South Carolina Sting Rays (ECHL), Reading Royals (ECHL), and Wilkes-Barre Penguins (AHL), winning a Calder Cup (AHL) with Hershey in 2006. After bouncing around the minors, Deryk finally got a consistent job upon signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He then spent three full seasons with their AHL affiliate, of the same name. In his last full season in the AHL, Deryk got his first taste of the NHL, as a mid-season call-up (9 games). During his time in the minors, Engelland recorded single-season highs of five goals (twice), 16 assists (2004-05, Las Vegas-ECHL), and 21 points (2004-05, Las Vegas-ECHL).
From the 2010-11 season on, Deryk Engelland remained with the NHL club, a season removed from their Stanley Cup win. During his time with Pittsburgh, Engelland established himself as a physical presence on the blue line, a facet of his game that Pittsburgh’s then-coach Dan Bylsma revered. Serving as their sixth/seventh defenseman, Engelland’s grit was so valuable to Bylsma that he went as far as using the blueliner as a fourth-line forward. Following the 2013-14 season, Engelland opted to test out free agency, signing a three-year, $8.7 million contract with the Calgary Flames, in a move that seemed to signify a desire for expanded minutes and responsibilities. After three seasons with the Flames, he was left unprotected for the 2017 Expansion Draft and was selected by the newly established, Vegas Golden Knights. Upon joining the team, Engelland was inked to a one-year, $1 million deal.
As a Las Vegas resident, dating back to his time in the ECHL with the Wranglers, Deryk Engelland won over many new fans before a regular season game even took place in the T-Mobile Arena. On October 1st, 2017, Las Vegas was the setting of a truly horrifying tragedy. Thousands of innocent concert-goers, this writer included, were the target of a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. During the shooting 58 individuals lost their lives, sending shockwaves throughout the city of Las Vegas, just nine days before the first-ever home game for the Golden Knights. In the aftermath of the shooting, the Golden Knights, as an organization hit the streets, helping where they could, going as far as donating blood for the overcrowded hospitals and urgent care centers. Part of what makes sports great, is the way most of the organizations take pride in their city and help support their fans, in their time of need. It is nice to see the role reversal, when the team takes care of the fans, the people who keep them in business. As a resident of Las Vegas, Deryk Engelland felt especially close to the tragedy. This was his city, his home, and he could not and would not stand quietly in the days following the attack.
T-Mobile Arena (USA Today Sports)
As a team, the Golden Knights planned their opening night around the tragedy. Internally, there must have been hundreds of plans scrapped at the last minute, in favor of a ceremony for the fallen and the survivors of the Route 91 shooting. As an expansion team, years in the making, the team had to have had big plans and expectations for their first game. Instead, the team focused solely on their community, their people. Personally, it was hard to watch the ceremony, so close to the horrific events that transpired just over a week prior, but the gesture and the pride that the organization took in the city was heartwarming. As an angry, defensive, and dismissive (healthy) survivor of the shooting, I had no interest in hearing about the shooting. Out of sight, out of mind. In retrospect, I can appreciate what the team did, hard work they endured, and the months of planning that went out the window. After dealing with employees and staff of the Vegas Golden Knights, I can confidently say that there wasn’t a second thought or ounce of doubt, when it came to their inaugural home-opener. This team is full of great people, top to bottom, who wanted to honor their city, their survivors.
Deryk Engelland Speech (USA Today Sports)
During the ceremony, Deryk Engelland got on the mic, a request he made before taking the ice. His family lives in Las Vegas, his wife is from the city, he felt attached to the tragedy. In his speech, Engelland gained fans, even breaking down my past bias as a lifelong Philadelphia Flyers fan that relocated to Las Vegas in the early 2000s. I know I don’t need to explain the Pennsylvania state rivalry between the Penguins and Flyers. It’s right up there with all the great rivalries: Michigan/Ohio State, Eagles/Cowboys, Yankees/Red Sox, Dodgers/Giants, Lakers/Celtics. Deryk was a thorn in the Flyers’ side, engaging in multiple physical battles, including two fights. That same Deryk Engelland got to me with his heartfelt speech, although I refused to admit, prior to my tenure here at HockeyBuzz.com. In his speech, Deryk showed the man that he is, a leader, a man who cares about his people. Instead of hitting and fighting for his teammates, Deryk was speaking on behalf of his city to the Las Vegas citizens he truly cared about.
“Like all of you, I am proud to call Las Vegas home. I met my wife here, my kids were born here, and I know how special this city is. To all the brave first-responders, that have worked tirelessly and courageously through this whole tragedy, we thank you. To the families and friends of the victims, know that we’ll do everything we can to help you and our city heal. We are Vegas Strong.”
-Deryk Engelland 10/10/17
Short, sweet, and to the point. Engelland made himself the star of the night, although that was not his intention. His speech resonated with the fans, survivors, and the families of those lost on October 1st. It’s hard to believe that I am not doing a write-up of a blockbuster movie because it has all the components. An unlikely hero, who struggles to get recognized by the powers that be (NHL clubs). Then he finds love in Las Vegas. He then goes on to win his first professional championship (Calder Cup in 2006). Then our hero finally catches a break, a contract with a successful NHL organization, followed by a contract extension. He then finds a new place to play, moving to Calgary, hoping for more success. After his contract expires, he is then swiped by a newly-created team, sending him back to the place his professional journey began, Las Vegas. Now as a NHL regular, his journey has come full-circle, but suddenly tragedy strikes. Which leads us to the cherry on top, the payoff. After delivering a great speech to the city that was ravaged by tragedy, Deryk Engelland takes the ice and scores the second goal of the game, just 4:18 into the Vegas Golden Knights’ first-ever home game, a 5-3 win over the Coyotes. During their inaugural season, his team makes an improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals, with a team comprised of “rejects”, left unprotected by the other 30 NHL teams.
(USA Today Sports)
You simply can’t make this stuff up. It screams Hollywood, but it really happened, right? I still can’t believe it. Keep in mind, that the man in question has never been an offensive force. He is a physical, stay-at-home defenseman, always has been. Yet, he went out and scored a rare goal, in the first period of that game. Something about Deryk Engelland delivering that speech and scoring that goal, had a lasting effect on the team and the city of Las Vegas, as a whole. Las Vegas, as a city, was fully embracing the #VegasStrong mentality. To this day, that hashtag is accompanied on Twitter by the VGK shield logo, perfectly marrying the team to the mind set.
Following the 2017-18 season, Deryk Engelland was awarded the Mark Messier Leadership Award, while serving as an assistant captain for the Vegas Golden Knights, a team that rotated multiple assistant captains, with no player donning an official captain’s “C”. Deryk earned another one-year deal with the team, at the not-so-ripe age of 36. He will turn 37 before the season ends (April 3rd), which is a testament to his longtime battle to get into the league and his determination to keep playing. Not many players are signed that late in their careers, but Engelland’s value goes beyond the product on the ice. His presence signifies so much more for the Golden Knights and their fans. It is widely accepted that when his playing days are over, he will remain in Las Vegas and work in some capacity for the Golden Knights, either on or off the ice. Although he has never been the guy to put up a ton of points or post advanced metrics that dazzle the analysts, he is the type of man and the type of leader, every locker room could benefit from. With young, dynamic defensemen waiting in the wings, it is only a matter of time before Deryk Engelland’s spot in the lineup goes away, but one thing is for sure, Deryk Engelland’s spot in Las Vegas is cemented for as long as he and his family wish to call Vegas home.
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