If you had to place a bet on who would be the first player to get into a fight as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, odds are you’d pick Deryk Engelland. The veteran defenseman has racked up nearly 50 regular season fights in his NHL career.
Fighting has always been a part of his game, and although Engelland is 35-years-old now, he doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon. This year, he’ll be patrolling the blue line for the Golden Knights, but he’s no stranger to Las Vegas. He started his career there in the East Coast Hockey League and it’s now where he and his family call home.
Before Engelland and the Golden Knights start their historic season, Violent Gents caught up with him to talk about the bright lights of Las Vegas and how he’ll be bringing his brand of hockey to the Strip.
Violent Gentlemen: How did you feel when you were selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft?
Deryk Engelland: As a free agent, I didn’t really think I’d be involved in the expansion draft. I was kind of surprised when they used their window to talk to me. That suggested to me they were interested. That was the first real glimpse of it. So, on the Sunday there was a possibility. We kind of waited and paced around all day Monday. Then, on Tuesday, we got a deal worked out and they told me they wanted to take me. So, really, on the Tuesday afternoon before the expansion draft, that’s when it all came into place for us.
VG: A lot of players worry about trades and new signings, but you and your family live in Summerlin in the offseason. What did signing with the Golden Knights mean to you and your family?
DE: It meant a lot. I’m getting up there in age, I’m 35 now, so hopefully, I’ve got a few more good years left, but to be able to come home and play in front of friends and family means the world. My kids get to stay in their school with all their friends and my wife doesn’t have to quit her job. It meant a lot to be able to come home and be a part of the whole process here.I get to play at home and take my boys to games in Vegas. It’s where it all started for me with my career in the East Coast Hockey League.
VG: You were reunited with former teammate Marc Andre-Fleury. What will he bring to the club this season?
DE: He’s a great goaltender. He’s won three Cups. He didn’t finish last year, but without him in net, that Washington series could’ve gone the other way. He’s a world class goalie, but he’s a great friend and he’s always fun to be around. There’s never a bad day for that guy. He comes to the rink happy. He just brings excitement. Whether it’s drills or bag skates, he’s doing something funny and making it a lot more fun with him in there.
VG: Some people like to joke that Vegas will have an incredible home record against visiting teams. Do you think there’s any truth to that?
DE: It doesn’t matter what city you’re in, whether it’s New York or wherever. If you want to go out and have a drink or two or too many, you’re going to do it no matter what city you’re in. I think everyone at this level can be professional about everything. You pick your spots for when’s a good time to go out with the boys. If you’re going out all the time, it’s going to catch up with you and you’re not going to be able to perform to the level you want.
VG: You’re one of the elder statesmen on the roster this season, how do you see your role in helping the young guys on and off the ice?
DE: I’ve been trying to be a good leader wherever I’m at. There’s different ways you can do that. Taking guys out for lunch on the road or here in town, little things like that make the difference. Sometimes when they’re plugging away in the AHL, they’re not making as much money, so you treat ‘em and it goes a long way. When they’re in the same situation, they’ll be doing that for the younger guys as well. Taking the young guys under your wing is a huge part of playing.
VG: You racked up a lot of penalty minutes in the early part of your career, but you’ve tapered off over the last few years. How has your approach to the game changed?
DE: I just try to stay out of the box with those little penalties that hurt your team. If you’re in the right position, you stay away from those penalties. Fighting is still a part of my game and that’s where I get the majority of my penalty minutes these days.
VG: You had nine fights last season, do you expect to continue this type of play with the Golden Knights?
DE: That’s been my role my whole career. That’s how I got to this level, so it’s a big part of my game. I like to go out there and protect the boys after a bad hit or something like that. If the team’s not playing well go, I’ll try to go out there and find a spark. Even if I’m not having a good game, I’ll try to go out and find one and maybe it changes my game around.
VG: You’ve racked up a lot of fights in your career, who was the toughest opponent you’ve ever faced?
DE: Oh god, there’s been a lot. Obviously, I fought McGrattan once and he dropped me, so that wasn’t a highlight. He’s a tough guy.
Colton Orr, I had great fights with him all the way from junior until now.
There’s so many guys I could name off that are extremely tough in different ways, but there’s not one that sticks out more than the others.
VG: In your opinion, who’s the toughest guy in the league right now?
DE: Ryan Reaves is one of the tougher guys in the league right now. He’s a big guy and he throws hammers. But pound for pound, I’d say Tanner Glass. He’s a tough guy and he fights everyone. He’s not the biggest guy but he’s a good fighter.
Another guy that comes to mind is Michael Ferland. I don’t think he’s quite figured out just how tough he is yet. Once he settles in and fights a couple heavy weights and finds out how tough he is, I think he can do some damage.
He throws heavy, but I don’t think he has the confidence yet. Over time, I think when he gets a few more fights under his belt he’ll be able to see how well he can handle himself and that will do him a lot of good.
VG: These next few questions come from our readers and fans of the Golden Knights.
The Sin Bin wants to know who’s your realtor, and how much of a commission is he or she giving you for all these NHL player referrals?
DE: I don’t even know my realtor’s last name, I just know him as Chowder. He’s been my realtor for the last few houses and he’s a friend. I’ve been hooking him up a little bit but I haven’t worked out a commission with him yet. Maybe if I do some real estate stuff in the future, he’ll cut me a little bit of a deal.
VG: David aka @ItsMcAvoy73 is curious as to who was your favourite player growing up?
DE: It’s tough not to go with Gretzky. I grew up in the Edmonton area and my family were all diehard Oilers fans, so you are kind of bred into it, especially during the dynasty era in the ‘80s. It would be tough not to go with him or Paul Coffey. It would be one of those two for me.
VG: Matthew Macaskill aka @habsology has a tough one for you. He wants to know who will be the first Golden Knights captain?
DE: That is a tough question. Not being around all the guys yet, you don’t know everybody’s personality or how vocal they are or what their tendencies are on and off the ice. Right now, it’s anyone’s guess. I don’t think I could even answer that right now. Jason Garrison, maybe. I’d throw his name out there.
VG: Fletch aka @hawkeyguy says that someone always surprises at each NHL camp. Who do you think has flown under the radar and will open eyes of team management?
DE: Off the top of my head, Alex Tuch. He’s coming in from Minnesota and was a really high draft pick. I was able to see him at the rookie development camp and watching him for some scrimmages, I hate to say it, but it looked like it was a man playing against boys. He was bigger and stronger than everybody else. Being in Minnesota, obviously they’re pretty deep, so coming here he has a good opportunity to turn some heads and push for a spot.
VG: Ryan aka @OneTimer87 wants to know, craps or roulette?
DE: I’m more of a roulette guy. Craps is too up and down for me.
VG: David aka @david_spurs_99 has got ice cream on the brain. He wants to know what’s your favorite flavor?
DE: I’m more of a frozen yogurt guy, but right now it’s definitely salted caramel pecan.
VG: We’re not sure what Rob Lee aka @GreenBosoms listens to, but he wants to know what’s your favorite music to get you pumped up before a game?
DE: I’m not too picky with music before games or anything. I’m kind of all over the map, I listen to everything. It all depends on my mood. Sometimes it’s heavy metal on the way to the rink, sometimes it’s rap. Sometimes my family is driving me and the kids are screaming in the back. There’s a good mix of it all.
VG: Finally, speaking of tunes, what should the Golden Knights goal song be for next year?DE: That’s really tough. I would have to say something along the lines of Chicago’s goal song. Something that’s really catchy, so much so that when they score against you, you’re singing it in your head on the ice, even when you shouldn’t be. My wife just said as long as it’s not “Viva Las Vegas.”