Darian Dziurzynski hopes his minor league deal paves the way for a major league future.
The former Brandon Wheat King has signed an American Hockey League contract to play the upcoming season with the Portland Pirates, the farm team of the National Hockey League’s Phoenix Coyotes.
Chosen by the Coyotes in the fifth round of the 2011 entry draft, Dziurzynski was hoping for an NHL contract with Phoenix, but instead will have to prove his worth to the club first.
"(The Coyotes) have my rights for another year so it was either sign something with them or go to school," the 21-year-old winger from Lloydminster, Alta., said. "I just talked to my parents about it and I really wanted to keep playing hockey so I decided not to do the whole schooling thing and go play pro."
Most drafted players can return to junior until they’re eligible to re-enter the draft if they’re unable to agree to the terms they want with their NHL team, but the 6-foot-1, 204-pound Dziurzynski’s options were limited because he only had one season of WHL eligibility left when he was picked by the Coyotes.
Dziurzynski started last season in the AHL, but was unsigned and returned to the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades without playing a game for the Pirates. He was flipped to the Wheat Kings after only four games with the Blades, finishing his overage season in the WHL with 30 goals, 46 points and 110 penalty minutes 65 games.
He went to the Coyotes’ development camp this summer and said contract talks with the club began to pick up after that.
"I felt like I had a good camp and they were pretty happy with everything," Dziurzynski said. "That’s where everything got started."
Dziurzynski’s not sure what happens next. If the NHL’s labour situation is settled in time, he’ll go to training camp with the Coyotes. If not, he’ll begin camp with the Pirates.
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon’s second selection from this year’s WHL Bantam Draft, D Tanner Browne of Kelowna, is on the short list of 28 players being considered for British Columbia’s team for the Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup, to be played Nov. 1-4 in Calgary … Tri-City has sent a 2014 second-round bantam pick and a 2013 third-rounder to Lethbridge for LW Philip Tot, 19, who had 45 points in 61 games last season … Regina has extended GM Chad Lang’s contract for one year, through the 2013-14 season.