-- Eric Tangradi
's road to recovery has ended, and now the Pittsburgh Penguins
prospect is ready to begin a new path.
If Tangradi has his way, that path will lead him directly back to the NHL.
The winger's efforts to become a permanent member of the team were stymied last season when the 22-year-old suffered a concussion during a game against the New York Islanders
in February. But talk to Tangradi today and you can tell he's ready to get back into the game.
"I feel 100 percent, if not better," Tangradi said. "I learned a lot from the injury and it was a tough grind getting back out there, but I had a really good summer … getting in the gym and putting on some extra weight to get ready for another hockey season."
After splitting time between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh last season, Tangradi realizes that he has other tasks to accomplish this weekend in Oshawa -- tasks that go beyond just earning a spot on the NHL roster.
Repeating Skinner's feat
Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner
is just the latest top prospect to use the Traverse City Prospects Tournament to kick start a strong season. Will another prospect duplicate his feat this year? READ MORE ›
"I think my role here is to be a leader," Tangradi said. "I think being one of the older guys and having so much experience at the rookie tournament, I'm just trying to make sure the younger guys are familiar with the system. As far as individually, I'm trying to get myself ready for an NHL camp and trying to get the kinks out, and a little bit of the rust that I might have, so that I might have an advantage going into camp with a few games under my belt."
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes
is on the same page with Tangradi's assessment.
"He's an older guy," Hynes said. "He's played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he's played in Pittsburgh, he knows how we think, so that's one of the main reasons he's here -- to lead the way for the younger guys. And on the ice, it's just to be a big, strong power forward and be a good net-front presence guy on the power play."
Tangradi understands that his injury temporarily halted his progression, but as he moves forward he is determined to use the experience as a learning tool.
"There have definitely been no side effects from the injury," he said. "If anything, it's made me stronger and more aware when I'm out on the ice. You have to keep your head up at all times. You never know where contact is going to come from. Situations like that, you can't really dwell on it. You have to learn from everything that the League throws at you and it was an unfortunate situation, but it's something that I've tried to turn into a positive and make better."
Meanwhile, Tangradi still has to show the Pittsburgh staff that he's ready to make the next step, and he's aware of the improvements still required.
"I have such a big frame and I was a bit passive on the perimeter," he said. "I really have to make an effort to get to the net and owning the blue paint a little bit more. And if that means banging in rebounds or distracting goalies, that's all part of the plan."
With his head injury behind him, Tangradi's determination and skill have returned with a vengeance. He believes this is only the beginning of a successful return to the NHL.
"I've never felt more confident about my game," Tangradi said. "I'm ready."