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NHL Draft: RPI Recruits Pirri, D'Amigo Among Players Selected

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, June 28, 2009

There is nothing like hearing your name being called at the NHL draft. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recruits Brandon Pirri and Jerry D'Amigo found that out Saturday on the second day of the NHL draft at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Pirri was chosen in the second round by the Chicago Blackhawks, while D'Amigo was a sixth-round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It is the second straight year that the Engineers have had two players chosen in the NHL draft. Last year, defenseman Jeff Foss was picked in the sixth round by the Nashville Predators. In the next round, defenseman Mike Bergin was selected by the Dallas Stars.

It is the third straight year RPI has had a player selected. Goalie Allen York was a sixth-round selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2007.

Pirri was the 59th overall selection in the draft. He is just the second Engineer to be selected in the second round, and second-highest overall. Forward Matt Murley is the highest RPI player picked. He was the 51st overall selection by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999.

"I'm thrilled for [Pirri]," RPI coach Seth Appert said in a telephone interview from Montreal. "Obviously, it's an exciting day for any kid to get picked to the National Hockey League. It's a culmination of all the hard work and the effort they put in. Brandon is certainly deserving of where he went. He's positioned himself, and he's worked so hard off the ice to become an elite player."

The 6-foot, 160-pound Pirri, a Toronto native, had 54 goals and 61 assists during the regular season and playoffs last year for the Ontario Junior Provincial Hockey League's Georgetown Raiders. He was rated 75th among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.

"It's really exciting," Pirri said. "The Blackhawks are a phenomenal organization. I couldn't be happier. Although this is a step in the right direction, it's still very far away. I have to prove myself every time. Going to RPI, I'm going to have to push myself even harder."

Appert wasn't surprised by how high Pirri was selected.

"In my opinion, that's as low as I thought he would go," Appert said. "You never know how draft days go. Central Scouting is one thing. But there are so many teams that appreciated the kind of player he is, and the kind of intelligence and potential he has in him."

D'Amigo, a Binghamton native, was rated 67th among North American skaters by Central Scouting. The 5-11, 196-pounder had 22 goals and 31 assists in 50 games for the U.S. National Under-18 team last season. He led the team in scoring during the Under-18 World Championships in April with four goals and nine assists as it won the gold medal.

But as the draft went on, D'Amigo was waiting for his name to be called. The Maple Leafs ended the suspense by picking D'Amigo 158th overall.

"It was a little stressful just sitting there and waiting," said D'Amigo, who played against RPI and had an assist in the U.S. Under-18's 5-4 win Oct. 12 at Houston Field House.

Despite going later than expected, D'Amigo was thrilled.

"I was kind of shocked," D'Amigo said. "Everybody around me was jumping up and down."

Appert was mildly surprised by how late D'Amigo was picked.

"He played through some injuries at the end of the year," Appert said. "Things happen. Maybe some of the injuries made the teams a little bit leery. I think Toronto got an absolute steal with where they got Jerry."

Notebook

The Engineers will have six NHL-drafted players when the season starts in October. The other drafted player is senior defenseman Christian Jensen, who was a ninth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2004. ...

RPI now has 57 players who have been drafted by NHL teams. It has had 10 players picked this decade. ...

RPI sophomore Patrick Cullen and Union goalie recruit Keith Kinkaid, who were considered possible late-round selections, were not picked.