TANGRADI SEES CHANCE TO STICK UP TOP
By: Tyler Rosten
As one of the top teams in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins have no shortage of offensive firepower with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evengi Malkin, and James Neal on the ice, but now Eric Tangradi is looking to add his name to the list of that loaded arsenal. After another solid season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and an extended call-up to Pittsburgh last year, this season could be the one that Tangradi pulls the proverbial trigger.
“This year I’m not going into camp with ‘if I make the team I want to have this many points and this many goals.’ I think if I do certain things in training camp and certain things in exhibition games nothing but good things can happen and things that will help me progress in my career and keep me in the NHL hopefully for a long time,” said Tangradi.
Unlike 2010-2011 when he made Pittsburgh straight out of training camp, Tangradi began his most recent season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where he appeared in 37 games and posted 31 points (15g-16a). It was not until Feb. 20 that he was called up to the NHL ranks, but he went on to enjoy longest stay of his career in the Steel City thus far. Tangradi appeared in 24 games throughout the remainder of the regular season and registered two assists.
“What keeps guys in the NHL and what makes you a guy that can stick in the lineup is consistency, some games you need to just bring your stuff and let the rest take care of itself,” said Tangradi.
After the Penguins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tangradi brought his production back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the team's post season run; finishing tied for second on the team with nine points in just 10 contests.
It was during his sophomore season in 2010-2011 that Tangradi made the Pittsburgh Penguins roster straight out of training camp and recorded his first NHL goal on October 15, 2010 against the New York Islanders. He would spend the first nine games of the season with the Penguins; eventually skating in 15 games for Pittsburgh with three points (1g-2a). He soon returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and continued his consistent offensive output, scoring 18 goals and 15 assists in 42 games. Tangradi earned a call-up to Pittsburgh once again on Feb. 21, 2011 and was in the line-up that night as the Penguins faced the New York Islanders. The two teams clashed in their infamous "Brawl Game" Tangradi left the ice having suffered a concussion from an elbow by the Islanders' Trevor Gillies. The NHL season was put on hold for Penguins forward as Tangradi was sidelined until the final game of the regular season.
While the path to his NHL career has led to Pittsburgh, the Philadelphia-native began his journey in Kingston, PA. Attending Wyoming Seminary Prep, Tangradi registered 44 points (21g-23a) in 38 games in 2005-06. He played only one season at Wyoming before embarking on his junior career with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. Skating in 65 contests during his rookie campaign, he scored five goals along with registering 15 assists in that season and showed the potential that had the Anaheim Ducks select him (42nd overall) in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry draft.
Tangradi recorded 60 points (24g-36a) in 2007-08 and Belleville captured their second Bobby Orr trophy - given to the OHL Eastern Conference Champions - in team history and their first in ten years. Tangradi continued to lead the Bulls the following season, setting his junior career highs in goals (38), assists (50) and points (88). During that season, Tangradi signed a three-year entry level deal with the Anaheim Ducks, but would never skate for the organization. Instead he was traded on February 26, 2009 along with Chris Kunitz to Pittsburgh for defenseman Ryan Whitney.
In his rookie season, 2009-10, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Tangradi would reaffirm his nickname as the “Big Dog”. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound winger appeared in 65 contests for the AHL Penguins registering 39 points (17g-22a) and logging 31 PIM. His performances in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that season were enough to garner his first call-up, and made his NHL debut with Pittsburgh against the New York Islanders on April 10, 2010.
Two years after that career milestone Tangradi now has a chance to make a permanent home in Pittsburgh. Due to multiple off-season transactions, the Penguins’ depth chart at forward is perhaps more open than has been in years. It seemed as though Tangradi found that recipe for success over the final three months of last season and looks to carry that over into this year’s training camp.
“There are a lot of different opportunities available for different players, but there hasn’t been a direct message to me where they see me fitting in,” said Tangradi. “Going from the past and looking at the depth chart going into the season I think there are a lot of opportunities available from second line to fourth line. I’m not going to go in and be someone I’m not, I’m going to go in and play Pittsburgh Penguins hockey.”