Since the season began, Portland Pirates rookie left wing Darian Dziurzynski has tried to do whatever his coaches have told him to do.
It’s paid off for him.
Last week, the parent Phoenix Coyotes signed Dziurzynski to a two-year NHL contract, which will go into effect when his AHL contract expires at the end of this season.
“Last year, I didn’t have a very successful year for myself in juniors,” said Dziurzynski, selected by the Coyotes in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL draft. “I don’t think I had a good enough year to get an NHL contract, so I signed (an AHL contract) with the Pirates. I knew it was a big year for me so I came in in real good shape and just did everything the coaches asked me to do.”
Dziurzynski hasn’t put up big numbers yet, but that’s not the role he’s supposed to play.
“I call him a heavy player,” Coach Ray Edwards said. “He’s a big, weighty player who can skate. He provides an element of toughness. He provides grit.”
On the team roster, Dziurzynski is listed at 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, but he seems to play much bigger than that.
“Part of what we wanted to be better at this year is to be a harder team to play against, and that’s Darian,” Edwards said. “That’s why we drafted him and, ultimately, that’s why we signed him because he plays that way.”
Still, it took Dziurznyski, who split last season with the Saskatoon Blades and the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League, nearly half the season to make the adjustment to the pro game.
“He didn’t have a great training camp with us,” Edwards said, “but we worked with him and told what he needed to do. He started getting opportunities and taking advantage of them.”
Dziurzynski, who turns 22 later this month, seemed to turn the corner after the NHL lockout ended.
“At the beginning of the year, I was in and out of the lineup,” he said. “I was playing well, but, with the lockout, it was tough to stay in the lineup for a bunch of games in a row. “
The lockout ended Jan. 14. In the 22 games Dziurzynski has played for the Pirates since then, he has five goals and four assists. In the 21 AHL games he played prior to that date, he had one assist.
“After the lockout ended, I began to get confidence and started scoring a little more than I did in the beginning of the season, and that helped to keep me in the lineup every night,” he said.
“He’s played well and he’s earned the contract,” said Phoenix assistant general manager Brad Treliving, who recently spent three days with the Pirates. “We were committed to him for one year, and we’re invested in him, and he likes the situation here. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and I think there’s a lot more upside there.”
Earlier this week, Dziurzynski served a one-game suspension because of a fighting major he received after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 4-3 overtime win over the Pirates last Saturday night.
“It’s sort of the way I play, sticking up for teammates,” he said. “It’s unfortunate to get the suspension, but I think it was a good thing for me to do.”
Dziurzynski, the younger brother of Ottawa Senator David Dziurzynski, learned something from the incident.
“I learned to fight only during periods,” he said.
NOTES: Defensemen David Rundblad, who left Wednesday night’s game because of an upper-body injury during the third period after recording a goal and an assist in a 6-3 win against Adirondack, and Mark Louis, who has missed one game because of an upper-body injury, could both be back in the lineup Saturday night …
The Texas Roadhouse Restaurant in Scarborough is donating 10 percent of its food sales Saturday and Sunday to Universal Recreation, a recreational activity program for disabled children supported by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, a Biddeford native. To participate in this event, diners must mention Dumoulin’s name, their connection with him, or present their game ticket to Saturday night’s Pirates’ game.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: