Sunday, December 26, 2010

Catching Up With the Engineers

We're taking a bit of break without much going on in the college hockey world this week - save the World Junior Championships, which start tonight. That makes it a perfect time to check up on the RPI alums still playing professional hockey. If we've missed anyone, please be sure to leave a comment, but we're pretty sure this is an exhaustive list of former Engineers still playing professionally.

We'll start at the top, with older alums first.

Stephane Robitaille '92 - SC Bietigheim Steelers (2nd Bundesliga)
Still going strong at the age of 40, Robitaille has been playing in Europe since 1993, playing in Austria from 1993 to 1998 and in Germany since 1998, with the exception of one season (2004-05) in France. After nine seasons in Germany's top flight league, he joined the Steelers two years ago in time to help them win the 2nd Bundesliga title in 2009. This is his third season with the Steelers, and thus far this season, Robitaille has 2 goals and 13 assists in 24 games, playing largely the same role he's played throughout his career, including the four years he spent in Troy in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Tim Regan '96 - Riessersee SC (GerObL)
Like Robitaille, Regan went straight to Europe after graduation and has been there ever since. With the exception of 13 games in Austria in 2003, Regan has played his entire career in Germany and is in his fourth stint with Riessersee, a team that plays in the Olympic town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Currently the team's assistant captain, Regan (who turns 37 in February) stayed with Riessersee despite their relegation from the 2nd Bundesliga last season, and he has now played with the team in each of the top three tiers of German hockey, as they are now in the Oberliga Sud. In 24 games this year, Regan has 12 goals and 16 assists, still producing more than a point per game, just as he did in his senior season in Troy (albeit against somewhat diminished competition).

Eric Healey '98 - Linz EHC (Austria)
After years of paying his dues as a top player in the AHL, Healey was rewarded in 2005-06 with a cup of coffee in the NHL, a pair of games with the Boston Bruins which saw a minor penalty as his only lasting statistic from his time in the top hockey league in the world. After spending two more years in the AHL after that, Healey went to Europe, spending 2008-09 in Sweden and Switzerland before landing in Austria last season with Graz EC. He had a stellar year last year with Graz, scoring 27 goals and 40 assists in 53 games. This year, he signed with Linz EHC, scoring 4 goals and 9 assists in 19 games before being released in November to allow Linz to sign former NHLer Jason Ward, as teams in Austria may only sign a limited number of foreign players. The 35-year-old Healey remains a free agent.

Mark Murphy '99 - DEG Metro Stars (DEL)
Like Healey, Murphy spent several years as an AHL stalwart before crossing the pond in 2005, playing in Finland and Sweden in 2005-06 before landing in Germany, where he's now in his fifth season in the German top tier. After three seasons playing in Augsburg, Murphy moved on to Dusseldorf to join the DEG Metro Stars, currently holding down first place in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. 22 games in, the 34-year-old Murphy has 5 assists and 45 penalty minutes.

Brian Pothier '00 - Geneve Servette (Swiss-A)
Pothier was the Engineers' mainstay in the NHL after the retirements of Adam Oates and Joe Juneau. Playing at least part of every season since leaving Troy in the NHL, Pothier accrued 362 games with Atlanta, Ottawa, Washington, and Carolina. After suffering a concussion in 2008, Pothier struggled to regain his form, and with teams trying to keep costs down to make it under the cap, Pothier ended up as one of a number of serviceable veterans who migrated to Europe after being unable to find a job in the NHL thanks to the difference in rookie and veteran cap impacts. Moving on to Servette, last year's Swiss runners up, Pothier, at the age of 34, has put up 4 goals and 17 assists in 30 games thus far.

Matt Murley '02
- Timra IK (SEL)
Murley had a number of stints in the NHL between 2003-04 and 2007-08, playing 62 games with Pittsburgh and Phoenix. He maintained some connection to the Capital District during his playing time in North America, signing with Colorado after his contract with Pittsburgh ended, who, at the time, had the Albany River Rats as their AHL affiliate. After leaving Phoenix, he signed with Carolina who, again, had the River Rats as their affiliate. But instead of reporting to Albany, Murley took the money and signed with the KHL's Amur Khabarovsk, causing a stir as the first NHL contracted player to break his deal and head for the KHL. Predictably, this has made him persona non grata in the NHL and he has continued his career in Europe after leaving the KHL. After playing for three different teams in Switzerland last year, the 30-year-old Murley landed in Sweden this season, where he played on a two-month contract for Linkoping HC, scoring 3 goals and 5 assists before moving onto another two-month contract with Timra IK, where he has 4 goals in 12 games.

Marc Cavosie '03 - HK Jesenice (Austria)
Signing a pro contract after his junior season in 2002 - the last Engineer to jump early before D'Amigo and Pirri - Cavosie never reached the NHL despite looking like a strong candidate when he left Troy. He struggled to find the same success he had at RPI for four consecutive years in the AHL, after which he headed to Sweden for a season. He had been back in North America, largely playing in the AHL again, since 2007, but this season Cavosie returned to Europe, now playing for Jesenice, a Slovenian team that has been playing in the Austrian league for the last five seasons, and which has won the Slovenian championship in five of the last six years. The 29-year-old Cavosie has 2 goals and 7 assists in 19 games.

Oren Eizenman '07 - Connecticut Whale (AHL)
Eizenman has had quite the journey through the professional ranks since graduation. After impressing with the ECHL's Fresno Falcons in 2007-08 (which included callups to Milwaukee and Worcester in the AHL), Eizenman played for no fewer than five teams in 2008-09 before mostly sticking with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL last season. Consistently dominant in the lower minor league, Eizenman is still working to find regular work in the AHL. After starting off the season with the ECHL's Elmira Jackals, the 25-year-old Eizenman had a short stint with the Syracuse Crunch before getting a tryout with the Connecticut Whale. He's off to a good start thus far, netting two goals, including a game winner, and an assist in nine games for the Whale.

Kirk MacDonald '07 - Providence Bruins (AHL)
The former RPI captain continues to work toward his NHL dream in Providence, where he has been considered in the recent past for an NHL contract rather than the AHL contract he is currently on. Like Eizenman, MacDonald dominated in the ECHL, but unlike Eizenman, MacDonald has definitely stuck in the AHL, now in his second stint with the Providence Bruins. MacDonald, who turned 27 this month, has 4 goals and 8 assists in 29 games, but is more favored in the AHL for his penalty killing ability.

Andrew Lord '08 - Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
Unlike most players who don't head straight to the NHL, the 25-year-old Lord has had a fairly stable life with the Wheeling Nailers right out of college, now in his third season with the Nailers and wearing the "C." Lord has been a bruiser in Wheeling, racking up plenty of penalty minutes in his first two seasons and well on his way to a third straight 100+ PIM year with 74 in 25 games. He also has 7 goals and 12 assists, and got an AHL call-up - his second in as many years.

Jonathan Ornelas '08 - Dayton Gems (CHL)
Ornelas seems to have settled into playing in North America's 4th tier of professional hockey, the Central Hockey League. As soon as the Engineers finished up their 2007-08 season, Ornelas joined the New Mexico Scorpions for their playoff run. He played a full season in Amarillo the following year, and has been with the Dayton Gems for the last two seasons, joining them in the IHL last season before the IHL folded into the CHL this season. So far this year, the 24-year-old Ornelas has 5 goals and 8 assists in 24 games, including 22 PIM.

Erik Burgdoerfer '10 - Bakersfield Condors (ECHL)
Like Ornelas, Burgdoerfer played pro hockey shortly after his senior season ended, joining the Condors in March last year not long after the Engineers were eliminated from the playoffs. He suffered a broken arm early in his tenure, but returned to the Condors on a full contract this season after being an early release from a tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite his rough and tumble reputation at RPI, the 22-year-old Burgdoerfer has just 18 PIM in 26 games for Bakersfield, along with a goal and 4 assists.

Peter Merth '10 - Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
Teammates with Andrew Lord in Wheeling, Merth, 23, has found regular playing time with his first professional team, appearing in 24 games to date with a goal and six assists to his name.

Jerry D'Amigo '13 - Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Currently with the U.S. Junior Team, D'Amigo is young for the AHL at only 19 years old, and to some extent it shows - he has only 3 goals and 6 assists in 29 games despite starting off the season on the Marlies' top line. With any luck, his return to the WJC may help jumpstart his professional fares.

Brandon Pirri '13 - Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Pirri continued the streak of RPI alums in the NHL for another season when he made an appearance in the Chicago Blackhawks' home opener as an emergency replacement for Patrick Sharp - a streak that goes back to Mike McPhee's first NHL season of 1983-84. Like D'Amigo, he has also struggled to put up top numbers in the AHL at the age of 19, but he's doing a bit better, with 5 goals and 7 assists in 25 games.

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