Thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks the RPI Engineers have now lost two of their top forwards in a span of less than two weeks.
The defending Stanley Cup champions signed centre Brandon Pirri to a three-year entry level contract on Tuesday, essentially ending his collegiate career with the Troy, N.Y., school since signing a pro contract would make him ineligible to play in the NCAA.
“Moving up to the next level and being in such a great organization is a blessing,” said Pirri of signing with Chicago. “I’m really excited to be a part of the Blackhawks family now.”
Pirri’s departure after one season follows that of his linemate and Eastern College Athletic Conference rookie of the year Jerry D’Amigo who left the hockey program after signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Aug. 11. But Pirri, 19, said that D’Amigo’s decision to leave the team had no bearing on his own decision to forgo the final years of his NCAA eligibility.
“Seeing what Jerry did was great, I was really happy for him because he’s a great friend,” said the Toronto native. “But when it comes down to business, you’ve got to do what’s right for you.
“Your goal is to play in the NHL and that’s been my goal since I was a little kid. In the end it was hard to leave my friends, but this is something that was good for my career since this is going to be my job one day.”
According to Pirri, the Blackhawks have said they’ll hold a spot for him with their American Hockey League affiliate Rockford IceHogs, meaning that he will most likely to spend the season there instead of with the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit, who own his junior hockey rights.
“Going into camp, my goal is to make Chicago,” said Pirri, who was draft in the second round – 59th overall – in 2009. “But Rockford is the more safe choice.”
At RPI, Pirri was the team’s second leading scorer with 11 goals and 32 assists for 43 points in 39 games. And since one of the biggest knocks against Pirri has been his size -- 6-foot, 170 pounds – the talented centre says he’s been spending more time at the gym in order to prepare for the more demanding AHL schedule.
“I’m only 19, so I’m sure I’m going to grow more," said Pirri. "But I’m happy with the year I’ve had in the weight room.”
After school ended at RPI, the team stayed together for a month and a half in order to workout during the summer, he says he’s also taking his fitness regime and diet more seriously and he’s seeing results.
“I felt like that helped a ton,” said Pirri. “I’ve gained 15 pounds of good muscle since the beginning of the year and just in the past two months being at home and training in Chicago, it’s really made a difference, especially with my speed and strength."
Sunaya Sapurji is the Jr. Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports.
You can reach her at: email@example.com or on Twitter @SunayaS