Goalie Eric Hartzell has seen and shared the ice with everyone in the Penguins organization, from the prospects to the NHL players.
But Hartzell has yet to play in game action with the club, as he signed his first contract, a one-year deal, back in April after his season ended and the 2012-13 NHL campaign was winding down. He was eligible to play in regular-season games, but was not eligible for the playoffs since he was signed after the trade deadline.
And though he practiced with the NHL team and even dressed as the backup goaltender to Tomas Vokoun on April 22 in Ottawa, Hartzell did not end up seeing any game action with the Penguins.
So needless to say, Hartzell’s goal after re-signing with Pittsburgh on a two-year, two-way contract with the organization on Saturday is to prove that he’s capable of stepping in and winning games for the team.
“I think the contract I signed at the end of my season last year was more of an experience contract to get me in and get my feet wet, get the experience of what it’s like to be a professional athlete and watch how those guys hold themselves on a daily basis,” Hartzell explained.
“I think with this contract, I might actually have a chance to play so I’m just going to work hard this summer. It was great to get here and be a part of this development camp with the guys, and hopefully I can just keep improving and get some playing time in the AHL next year.”
Hartzell came to Pittsburgh a coveted free agent, as he was named USA Hockey College Player of the Year for 2013 after leading Quinnipiac to the school’s first-ever Frozen Four appearance this past spring at CONSOL Energy Center. Hartzell, who helped the Bobcats reach the championship game, was also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top college hockey player this season after posting a 30-7-5 record, 1.57 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in 42 starts.
Hartzell led the entire NCAA in minutes played this season (2522:02) and tied for third in shutouts with five while being named NCAA First-Team All-American. His accolades included 2013 ECAC Player of the Year, ECAC Hockey Ken Dryden Goaltender of the Year, a selection to the ECAC First-Team All-Star squad, a spot on the All-New England All-Star team and a selection to the CollegeHockeyNews.com's First-Team.
So yes, Hartzell certainly possesses a very impressive college pedigree. But what do the coaches like best about his game?
"One of the things that jumps off the page is his size and his athleticism, and that's something in today's day and age you want to have in your goaltenders,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes said of the 6-foot-4, 187-pound netminder.
“He's a very competitive player. He's a guy that we're going to look to be able to come in and create a real competition with Jeff [Zatkoff] in Wilkes-Barre and see how he develops from there. This week, we liked his work ethic. We like his athleticism, and we think we have a real competitor in net. With a little bit of growth and development, we feel he has the potential to be an NHL goaltender.”