After reports of defensive prospect Lukas Bengtsson packing up and returning home to Sweden to play in the SHL Tuesday afternoon, Jim Rutherford dipped into the college ranks once again and quietly signed new defenseman Dane Birks to a two-year, entry-level contract during Detroit’s spanking of the Penguins last night.
Birks is a 2013 sixth-round draft pick and his deal with begin with the 2018-19 season. He’ll report to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins later this week on an amateur tryout contract to prove to Clark Donatelli and the rest of the Pittsburgh organization what he’s got.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound product out of British Columbia played three years at Michigan Tech (a team that took it to top-ranked Notre Dame in the NCAA Tourney), posting five goals and 18 points in 44 games as a junior this season. In total, the 22-year-old put up 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 117 tilts with the Huskies. Birks is a right-handed shot and has taken it upon himself to really improve his offensive game. So far, his work ethic has showed, as he’s continuously put up better offensive totals in each season he played at Michigan Tech.
Before playing college hockey, Birks spent two-plus seasons in the British Columbia Hockey League, splitting his time between the Trail Smoke Easters and the Merritt Centennials. In 112 career BCHL games, he collected 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists) and earned both Rookie of the Year (2012-13) and Defenseman of the Year (2013-14) honors. Birks was also on the Canada West roster at the 2013 World Junior-A Challenge, where his team captured the bronze medal.