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RPI's Pirri Joins D'Amigo in Pro Ranks

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, August 25, 2010

Like most Canadian kids, Brandon Pirri had visions of one day playing in the National Hockey League.

Pirri took a step toward that dream Tuesday, when the Toronto native gave up his final three years of college eligibility at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and signed a three-year contract with the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

The 19-year-old Pirri becomes the second high-profile RPI player to leave after just one year at the school. Two weeks ago, Jerry D'Amigo signed a three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"It's a dream come true, ever since I was a little kid," Pirri said. "I get to do something I would do for free, but I get paid to do it now."

Blackhawks officials were unavailable for comment. Anton Thun, Pirri's agent, said negotiations went smoothly.

"Brandon received the maximum signing bonus, and the maximum compensation salary that he could receive, having been drafted in the 2009 entry draft," Thun said.

Pirri was the Blackhawks' second-round selection in last year's NHL draft. Before coming to RPI, the 6-foot, 170-pound Pirri had a combined 46 goals and 48 assists for the Georgetown Raiders and Streetsville Derbys of the Ontario Junior "A" League. He was the league's third-leading scorer.

He played in 39 games for the Engineers. He was second on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 32 assists, and helped RPI finish fifth and earn its first ECAC Hockey tournament home-ice berth since 2006. Pirri led all rookies in scoring in ECACH play with five goals and 27 points.

Pirri attended the Blackhawks' prospects camp last month and came away confident he could make the jump to the pros.

"A lot of guys at the prospect camp are college guys, and some of the newer draft picks," Pirri said. "Coming in there and doing well, and also the fact that I came in so much stronger and in better shape surprised the fitness people in Chicago. The off-ice work I did at RPI made a difference, and showed that I'm serious about playing pro hockey."

If Pirri doesn't make the Blackhawks out of training camp, he will be sent to Rockford, Chicago's American Hockey League affiliate. He won't be going to Saginaw, the Ontario Hockey League team that owns his Canadian major junior rights.

"My goal is to never get sent down to Rockford," Pirri said. "But I have a spot in Rockford, and that's where I assume I'm going to play this year."

D'Amigo's departure didn't influence Pirri's decision to leave.

"I'm happy for Jerry," Pirri said. "It's a business now. Everyone's got to do what's right for them to get to the next level. As Jerry had to do with what he thought was the right move, I did the same thing. I feel this is going to be the right move for my career."

Just as he was with D'Amigo, RPI coach Seth Appert is happy for Pirri. Appert believes their departure won't be devastating to the team.

"At the end of the day, you win with your seniors," Appert said. "That's what college hockey is all about. It's about your senior class. I'm excited about the seniors that we have."