Deryk Engelland was one of the many gritty guys on the Penguins last season who was just as willing to lay down in front of a shot as he was to drop the mitts and exchange a few punches. After the jump, we take a brief look at Engo's 2010-11 season with the Pens, the closest he's come to a full season in the NHL.Player: Deryk Engelland
Role: Seventh defensemen, all-around tough guy
Contract Status: UFA in 2014/15
The Pens relied on Engelland for 63 games last season, seven times as much as they did the previous season when he cracked the lineup for only nine. One could argue that Engelland's status with the team last year was one more out of necessity than anything else, but let's not forget that the injuries Pittsburgh sustained last season were predominantly centered on the forwards. In other words, Engo earned his spot and was willing to do whatever it took to keep it.
If that meant fighting, then so be it. Engelland dropped the mitts 13 times last season, at one point 10 times in his first 19 games alone. By the end of the season he'd tussle with the likes of some of the league's most notorious tough guys: Paul Bissonnette (aka BizNasty), Chris Neil, Colton Orr, George Parros and Colton Orr, to name a few. Hell, throw Jody Shelley in there too. Engelland earned that one.
Offensively, the Pens got what you'd expect to get from a tough-guy defensemen: three goals and seven assists. In fact, his 10 points was seven more than that of Eric Godard, a player who takes up a forward spot and barely contributes much on the offensive end. Engelland's presence alone is enough to make even the most staunch Godard supporter realize that he likely won't return for another season with the Pens.
Engelland finished worst among active defensemen in the plus-minus stat, finishing the season as a minus-five. Matt Niskanen, who came over to the team via a midseason trade with the Dallas Stars, ended his half season with the Pens as a minus-three. Obvious cause for concern when you're looking at a defenseman, but there were signs of improvement throughout his first full(ish) season with the team that gives at list a glimmer of hope that he's bound to improve next season. Only thing is, at 29 years old, one would've hoped that sort of progress would've been made by now. Nevertheless, a season at the NHL level can at least do wonders for a guy's confidence.
Where do you see Engelland fitting into the Pens' plans next season? (PS - he cannot be demoted to the AHL)