For those fortunate enough to watch, ESPNU televised the ECAC showdown between RPI and Princeton on Sunday afternoon. Anyone familiar with our site will recognize the fact that the Blackhawks 2009 2nd round pick Brandon Pirri is a freshman for RPI.
First off, let’s start with a brief background about Pirri:
Drafted with the 59th overall pick in last summer’s draft, Pirri fits the mold of many other Dale Tallon 2nd round picks. Tallon made a career of drafting project picks with his second overall choice. Look no further than Akim Aliu, Bryan Bickell, Michael Blunden and Simon Danis-Pepin.
The big difference between Pirri and the aforementioned others is that instead of being a big player who needed to develop his skills, he already has the hockey skills. The only thing he’s lacking is some size on his 6’0″ frame. At 170 pounds, it will be very important for Pirri to put on about 15 to 20 pounds during his tenure at RPI.
Another reason why Pirri is considered a project pick is because where he played his junior career. Instead of playing in the Ontario Hockey League, Pirri chose to play in the lesser Ontario Junior Hockey League so he could be the big fish on the small frozen pond (For those familiar with youth hockey, the OHL is considered a Tier 1 league and the OJHL is a Tier 2 league, like the difference between AA and AAA). That decision led many scouts to believe that Pirri wasn’t nearly as good as other prospects who played at the top level.
With all those facts, it’s no surprise Tallon found it too hard to resist passing up on the 19 year-old Toronto native.
Anyways, on to the game and some of my impressions:
–Pirri centers a line for fellow freshmen Jerry D’Amigo (a 6th round pick of Toronto and national hero due to his performance at the recent World Junior Championships) and Marty O’Grady. It’s RPI’s second line but there’s no doubt by next year, it will be their first. Due to the circumstances, though, they only had a handful of shifts together because of all the penalties being called. Between the two teams, there were 17 penalties called and more than half were ticky-tack calls.
–Pirri played on the number one power play unit. RPI uses an umbrella scheme with the man advantage and Pirri is typically situated at the top of the right face-off circle (think where Patrick Kane usually is) to utilize his passing (more later on that) and his left-handed shot. For stretches of a couple power plays, Pirri played the point and didn’t look awful.
–He sees zero time on the penalty kill and it wasn’t due to a lack of opportunity. RPI killed seven penalties in the game.
–After watching the game and then looking at the scoresheet, I am very nervous as to how many points Pirri actually has this year. On the scoresheet, he was credited with three assists. Unfortunately, two of them were phantom assists. For one goal, he wasn’t even on the ice and got credit. The other goal was scored off a face-off and only two players touched the puck. Neither of which was Brandon Pirri. Of course, on RPI’s second goal, Pirri should’ve been credited with an assist but wasn’t. So maybe it all evens out.
–On to his actual assists. Pirri assisted on RPI’s first goal on the power play. He got the puck at the right half-boards and stepped across the slot. Princeton’s penalty killers collapsed on him and Pirri slightly whiffed on his snap shot. The puck deflected off a Princeton defender though and went right to D’Amigo, standing at the side of the net, who popped the puck into the vacant net.
His second assist, which he didn’t get credit for, Pirri was at the point on the power play. He skated across the blue line and tried a cross-ice pass but it hit a Princeton defender. The puck deflected right back to an RPI player, Mike Bergin, supporting Pirri. Bergin snapped a shot from 55 feet out and it somehow found the back of the net.
–By my unofficial count, Pirri took eight face-offs and won all of them. Seven of them he won clean and the other, he tied up the opposing center and kicked it back to his defenseman.
–Watching him play and using common sense as to how he’s used on the power play, there’s no doubt Pirri is a pass-first, shoot-later type of player. He’s also very good with the puck in tight quarters. A couple times, he was able to stickhandle his way through traffic along the boards. In open space, not so much. He coughed up the puck early on when he had a ton of room.
His skating still needs some work. A few times I noticed he was hopping as he crossed over instead of staying parrallel with the ground and just driving with his legs. Also, he could probably become a bit faster if he learns to extend his skating stride. Whatever, those are flaws that can be easily fixed.
As for shooting, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to evaluate him on that. He had one slap shot that sailed over the net and his failed snap shot actually ended up as an assist. Otherwise, his release was just average. Nothing special to see.
–He loves to talk. Every time the camera panned the RPI bench, Pirri was seen yapping to one of his teammates. At one point, D’Amigo looked at him like “What the $#@! are you talking about?”
Some other nuggets from the broadcast:
–A fun fact about RPI’s team – Their captain is John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr.. Somehow, I doubt there’s any relation.
–The play-by-play team sounded like a bad imitation of Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray. At some points, I thought “Ghostbusters 2” was bleeding over the broadcast of the game. It was really weird.
–Jerry D’Amigo is playing like a beast since returning from the World Junior Championships. He was easily the best player on the ice for both sides.