Penguins prospect Eric Tangradi
skated for just the third time this summer on Tuesday at Southpointe during the first practice session of the Penguins’ prospect camp. Tangradi, one of the top prospects within the organization, had been sidelined due to a hand injury.
“It was a scary moment,” Tangradi said of the injury. “I was going down on a two-on-one and the backchecker took my legs out. The goalie butterfly-ed right into my left hand. I looked down and there was blood everywhere.
“It was definitely a scary injury. I learned from it. It was the first injury and surgery of my career. It’s something that you have to get physically and mentally stronger from.”
Tangradi has fully recovered from initial surgery. He will have a follow-up procedure to help with the flexibility of his hand but the forward expects to be ready for the start of training camp in September.
“I’m having a little trouble bending the joint in my thumb,” Tangradi said. “A small procedure will loosen the scar tissue up and give me a full range of motion which would help me with my shot. My thumb is really stiff. Hopefully, the surgery will loosen things up and I’ll be able to start shooting pucks. Right now my shot is not where I’d like it to be but a lot of hard work in August and I’ll be ready for training camp.”
“I’m encouraged to watch how he comes through his injury,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden said. “He is highly regarded as our top prospect. We’re excited to have him around for the week and get him involved in all the activities and team building exercises. We won’t see him at 100 percent this week but we want to get him in the fold with us. We want him to understand what we expect once things get going.”
Tangradi, who was acquired from Anaheim along with Chris Kunitz
in Februray, finished eighth in the Ontario Hockey League with 88 points (38 goals, 50 assists) in 55 games for the Belleville Bulls in 2008-09. He added eight goals and 21 points in 16 playoff games before suffering the hand injury.
At the Penguins prospect camp, Tangradi is working to improve on other aspects of his game.
“My foot work has really developed over the past few years but in the NHL you’re playing against men and it’s a new level,” he said. “I need to get my explosion and quickness better.”
Tangradi also wants to improve his strength. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound forward looks more like a professional wrestler than a hockey player. Tangradi uses his impressive build to play a gritty and physical brand of hockey.
“I just want to get bigger, stronger, faster and elevate every part of my game,” he said. “I play physical and try to spark myself off of that and try to score a gritty goal here and there. Hitting is a huge part of my game and it sparks everyone around. I want to get bigger, get stronger and do my best come September.”
“Eric is a man of stature with the size that he plays the game at,” Reirden said.
Tangradi’s ultimate goal would be to make the Penguins’ roster out of training camp. Although if that happened, he would have to give up his long-sported No. 25, which is worn by Stanley Cup Final Game 7 hero Max Talbot. Not that Tangradi would mind.
“Just to be able to put the sweater on, they can put any number on the back of my jersey and I’ll be smiling,” Tangradi said.
In the meantime, Tangradi is just pleased to be a part of the Penguins organization and to be back on the ice.
“I feel pretty good on the ice right now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a full week of skating. Just to get on the ice for seven days will help me this summer.”