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November 24, 2017

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Engelland’s unlikely offensive contributions helping fuel Golden Knights

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AP Photo/John Locher

Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson, center, celebrates with defenseman Deryk Engelland, right, after Karlsson scored against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Deryk Engelland is best known for two things: being a solid defenseman, and even more so, for being the only Las Vegan on the Golden Knights roster.

Lately, the 35-year-old seems to be trying to add offensive playmaker to that list.

Engelland only had 22 goals in 469 career games when he came to Vegas, but has already scored two goals and has four points in the last three games.

Those unexpected contributions from players such as Engelland have made the Golden Knights the best expansion team in NHL history through 16 games, including a 5-2 win Friday against Winnipeg at T-Mobile Arena.

James Neal scored his team-best ninth goal of the season tonight, and David Perron added a goal and an assist during the Golden Knights 5-2 win over Winnipeg.

Engelland finished with two assists, the first a beauty of a drop to Perron, who fired it past Jets’ goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

“To show the poise that Engelland did tonight with the puck was nice,” Perron said. “The one he dropped to me, on another night maybe he would just throw it at the net but he had the patience to hold on to it for another second.”

Engelland not only left the puck perfectly for Perron to shoot, but continued skating in front of the goalie to create a partial screen.

“I jumped up in the rush,” Engelland said. “(Erik) Haula made a good pass to me. Perron was yelling so I just gave him the puck and he had a good shot so hats off to him.”

In the second period Engelland ripped a slap shot from the right point. Hellebuyck was there to make the save, but the rebound went right to William Karlsson, who put it into the net to give the Golden Knights a 3-1 lead.

“Smith came up the wall and gave me a nice, soft pass so I just tried to get it through and on the net, and Karlsson was there to tap it in,” Engelland said.

Engelland had only the one shot on net Friday but has been getting shots through with regularity lately. He scored in the Golden Knights’ shootout loss to Toronto on Oct. 6 with a laser of a wrist shot into the top left corner of the net.

“They’re part of our team and we have talked about it from the beginning of the year that everyone will have to produce,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “They join the rush and make plays offensively, especially tonight.”

Luca Sbisa — another solid defenseman that rarely contributes offensively — scored the opening goal for Vegas on Friday.

“I haven’t been much of a scorer in my career so it’s nice to get a goal every once in awhile,” Sbisa said. “It’s not really my game but I never say no to a goal. The coaches don’t put any restrictions on us. They want us to join the rush and give us the green light. It’s fun to play that way.”

The Golden Knights may lack a superstar scorer with the ability to finish near the top of the league in goals, but they make up for it in balance. If Engelland can continue to contribute offensively, even if sporadically, it will go a long way towards the team continuing its winning ways.

“He should be on the power play the way he’s playing,” Perron said, laughing. “Seriously though it’s good for him. We are all happy when a guy that plays solid defensively like him every night gets rewarded on the other side of the puck.”

Jesse Granger can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Jesse on Twitter at twitter.com/JesseGranger_.

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