Penguins defenseman Engelland is quickly adapting to forward spot
Deryk Engelland sat at his locker Monday at Southpointe, his head down. When he looked up, Engelland did a double take when he noticed about 10 reporters hovering over him.
His teammates are doing a double take, too.
Engelland, the veteran defenseman the Penguins moved to forward a few weeks ago, has scored twice and has been more comfortable at right wing than even he expected.
“You know, it's pretty incredible,” center Joe Vitale said.
Engelland had his most successful game at forward Saturday in Columbus. Not only did he score the game-winning goal, but Engelland and his line — he was joined by Vitale and winger Dustin Jeffrey the past two games — were on the ice in the final stages while protecting a lead, perhaps a sign of confidence from coach Dan Bylsma.
“He looked completely comfortable in that situation,” Bylsma said.
Engelland said he still doesn't feel comfortable at forward. Prior to this season, he played one game at right wing. He also played briefly at forward during a career that has seen Engelland play five years of junior hockey and seven years in the minor leagues.
Engelland almost exclusively has been a defenseman all of his hockey life.
“I don't know if I'd say that it's been smooth,” Engelland said. “It's definitely a challenge for me. It's gotten easier each game I've played, though.”
Engelland's recent play suggests he might remain at forward for the remainder of the season. He scored a goal that gave the Penguins a lead in the third period against the Islanders on Oct. 25. Engelland buried a one-timer to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead over Columbus on Saturday.
“I'm so impressed,” Vitale said. “The first time we played together, I thought, ‘OK, there's the lineup. I'm with Engo. Let's slow it down.' I just wanted to get through it and not let the other team score. It's been incredibly surprising how efficient he's been and how good he's been in the offensive zone. What a job he's done.”
Engelland didn't figure to see much playing time this season. The Penguins' established top-four defense rotation includes Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and the injured Rob Scuderi. Matt Niskanen has been among the league's best defensemen in the season's first month, and the young duo of Olli Maatta and Robert Bortuzzo has played well.
Simply put, there wasn't much room in the Penguins' blue line rotation.
The bottom six in the forward rotation, however, was a different story. Bylsma has shuffled through different third and fourth line combinations on many nights, and players such as Harry Zolnierczyk and Chris Conner have already received looks on the third and fourth lines.
Engelland, who has impressed teammates with his puck protection, quickness and instincts in the offensive zone, credited assistant coach Tony Granato with showing him the ropes at forward.
“Tony is pretty big on helping me with wall play, the neutral zone transition, chipping pucks deep,” Engelland said. “Plus all the guys have helped me at what I need to get better at.”
Those teammates couldn't be more impressed.
“He's just a big man who can skate,” Jeffrey said. “He's watched a lot of video to get better. I think he's done a great job.”
Having Engelland at forward gives the Penguins a physical presence, and if a defenseman suffers an injury — such as Scuderi's ankle injury in Toronto on Oct. 26 — Engelland can slide back into his natural position.
Still, the more he plays forward, the more his teammates like what they see.
“I'm so impressed with how patient he's been with the puck,” left wing Tanner Glass said. “Honestly, he's doing everything well. He's a really smart hockey player.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Injuries to Penguins’ Ehrhoff, Letang force defense to pick up slack
- Five is enough for Penguins’ defensemen
- Penguins’ Letang leaves hospital, out with concussion
- Penguins slip past Sharks, 3-2, in shootout
- Hit sends Penguins’ Letang to hospital
- Penguins notebook: ‘Skill practice’ part of optional workout
- Roberts to oversee training regimen at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex
- Despite adversity, Penguins at ease
- NHL scoring continues its decline in March