Like many Canadian kids growing up, they dream about some day playing in the National Hockey League. And it’s no different for Toronto native, Brandon Pirri, who’s getting closer to his dream every season.
A 2009 second round (59th overall) draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, Pirri is hoping he makes the big club this year straight from camp, that is, if there is indeed a season (see Collective Bargaining Agreement).
Pirri, 21, led the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s top affiliate team in the American Hockey League, with 56 points including 33 assists in 66 games last season after putting up 43 points in 70 games in 2010-11. In the past two seasons, Pirri has been called up six times to the Hawks, recording two assists.
Pirri notched 26 points in 16 games during his only season with Rensselear Polytechnic Institute in 2009-10. Instead of taking the Ontario Hockey League route, Pirri believed American college was the answer. His stellar play in his freshman year at R.P.I. earned Pirri an entry-level contract with Chicago.
“As a 16 year old, I wasn’t ready to go to the OHL,” Pirri said. “I was drafted but I didn’t feel that I would get a lot of opportunity or if I would be able to succeed. So I felt I would make it happen in Junior A by developing and having more opportunity. When I turned 18 and was able to go to R.P.I., to be in the position to be a go-to player, that was my main attraction to go to R.P.I. The coaching staff was unbelievable and I really appreciate what they did for me and I have nothing but good things to say about that school.”
The 6-foot, 180 pound center has been training, putting on weight and skating every day this summer. Pirri’s strongest attributes of his game is his puck possession and playmaking skills. As a center, Pirri gets his fair share of faceoffs as well.
“I like having the puck on my stick,” Pirri stated. “I like being in control and getting my teammates involved; using your teammates on key plays in open ice instead of trying to do everything yourself.”
There’s been much speculation about Pirri slipping into the second line center spot for the Hawks. Coming to the players camp and playing with consistency will be the key to Pirri’s success which will earn him a spot on the Blackhawks.
“I’ve done two years in Rockford and I’ve done everything asked that the brass has told me. I’ve had another great summer and I’m just looking to show what I have to give. At the end of the day, it’s not my decision. You just want a chance to do well and influence them to the point where they have to take you.”
“I’ve enjoyed my experience in Rockford and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the few years there, but my goal is to be in Chicago. I’m training and focusing on being in Chicago. Whatever happens with this lockout, it’s out of my control. But right now, I’m focusing on being a Blackhawk next season.”
The feeling Pirri gets from putting on the Hawks sweater and walking onto the “Madhouse on Madison” ice and standing through the loudest, most raucous crowd during the national anthem is one thing that Pirri will never forget.
“It’s literally a dream come true,” Pirri concluded. “My first Hawks game was the banner-raising game two years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever be that nervous in my entire life again. It’s something that I’ll get used to hopefully one day. It’s still a blessing. The first couple of games I was a bit nervous but then you get more comfortable with the pace and with the players. I think I’m learning that all the time.”