The Pittsburgh Penguins No. 2 prospect Eric Tangradi made his NHL debut Sunday evening against the New York Islanders.
Tangradi, 21, the marquee acquisition of the Ryan Whitney trade last February, had 13:49 of ice time playing on a line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.
Tangradi had 3 shots on goal and got better as the game went on. In the first half of the game, it appeared that it was an adjustment period for Tangradi to adjust to the NHL speed, struggling off the boards but he started getting more comfortable later in the game.
He played a strong third period and his ability around the net stood out. Tangradi protects the puck well with his size and never tried to do much. When entering the offensive zone with the puck, Tangradi would dump the puck in and look to create offensive opportunities off the fore-check and cycle. He’s not a player that is going to create prime scoring chances with flashy individual plays.
One area of his game that must improve is his physical play. There were a few situations on the fore-check where Tangradi was poke checking instead of taking the body.
Tangradi has drawn some concerns from scouts at the AHL level about his lack of consistency when it comes to physical play.
Tangradi is expected to be re-assigned to Wilkes Barre/Scranton Monday morning but fans may not have seen the last of him this season. Team sources indicate that Tangradi will be added to the Penguins playoff roster, if Wilkes Barre is knocked out of the playoffs and the Penguins are still playing.
Looking ahead to 2010 and beyond, Tangradi is the only legitimate top-6 forward in the Penguins system.
Names such as Dustin Jeffrey (71 pts, WBS) get mentioned around here but try to find a scout who actually projects Dustin Jeffrey to develop into a top-6 forward at the next level.
Scouts like Nick Johnson to potentially play a second line role but concerns continue about his speed and most evaluators see him as more of an asset as a third line winger at the next level.
Meanwhile, 2009 third round pick Ben Hanowski has tremendous puck skills but is a major project according to league evaluators. Hanowski had 9 goals and 19 points in 43 games at St. Cloud State. He’s at least 3-4 years away, according to one evaluator.
2009 4th round pick Nick Petersen is a talented winger in the Penguins system, scoring 39 goals and 79 points for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL but he’s an older player that is playing against younger competition. His projection as an NHL player is years away.
A sleeper in the Penguins system is Keven Veilleux whose season was cut short due to shoulder surgery.
One scout ranked the Penguins as having one of the bottom five systems in the National Hockey League when it comes to the winger position.
Last year Pittsburgh went defense-defense in the 1st and 2nd round and their focus in the first round of the upcoming 2010 draft will be drafting a winger.
The Penguins are very deep on their blueline with Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait, Philip Samuelsson Ben Lovejoy and Carl Sneep (not signed) in their system.
Top 5 Winger Prospects
1. Eric Tangradi – Age 20
Born Feb 10, 1989 – Philadelphia, PA
Height: 6-4 Weight: 219 lbs
Position: LW Shoots: Left
2007 2nd round draft pick Estimated Arrival: 2010-2011
Current Team: Wilkes Barre Scranton (AHL)
Latest Buzz: 4/11/09 – In 65 games played, Tangradi has 17 goals and 22 assists on the season for the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins. His progression in the second half of the season has been impressive. Made his NHL debut Sunday, April 11 against the New York Islanders.
Scouting Report: –
Strengths: Above average skating ability for his size,
-Protects the puck very well down low in the offensive zone
– establishes a net presence, effective in the slot
– Strong possession player in around the net, uses size very well to protect puck
– Great Hockey vision, sees the ice very well
– Does not have an explosive shot but he has good hands around the net
– Quickness of his shot is a still a work in progress
– More consistency in the offensive zone. Ability to create scoring chances off of one-on-one battles is still a developing area of his game.
– Lacks consistency in physical play. Doesn’t play a rugged game that proto-typical power forwards play at the NHL level.
Potential – Top 6 Forward
2. Keven Veilleux – Age 20
Born: 6-27-1989, St-Georges-de-Beauce, PQ
Height: 6-4 Weight: 220 lbs
Position: RW Shoots: R
09-10 Stats:: 9GP – 2 goals – 1 assists – 3 points
Current Team: Wilkes Barre/Scranton (AHL)
2007 2nd round draft pick Estimated Arrival: 2011-2012
Latest Buzz: 4/10/09 -: Veilleux underwent shoulder surgery in December and only appeared in 9 games this season.
Scouting Report: After being drafted as a center, Veilleux has been groomed to be a winger in the NHL. Possess size, strength and great composure in around the net.
Strengths: Excellent goal scorer on breakaways
– Hard accurate shot, has top 6 forward potential in the shooting and passing department
– Above average speed, acceleration for a player his size
– Uses his long reach, protects the puck well in the offensive zone
– Has drawn comparisons to Viktor Kozlov from team scouts
– Looks very comfortable playing wing
– Smart two-way player, cleans up his own well, has a center instinct
– Size, offensive skill to be a 45+ point player in the National Hockey League
Weaknesses: Has lacked a killer instinct at the junior A level
– Like many young players, needs to be more consistent
– Will benefit from better coaching at the AHL level
-Development has taken a hit after missing most of the 2009-2010 season.
Potential – High end third line player with ability to play on top two lines
3. Nick Johnson – Age 24
Height: 6-2 Weight: 200 lbs
Position: RW Shoots: L
2004 3rd round draft pick Estimated Arrival: 2010
Current Team: Wilkes Barre Scranton (AHL)
Latest Buzz: 4/11/10 -: Has 16 goals and 27 assists in 61 games played.
Scouting Report: At age 24, Johnson is a late bloomer. Had an exceptional training camp for the Penguins and spent 6 games with the Penguins in late Janaury, recording a goal and an assist.
– Big strong player who has top 9 potential, can score in around the net and create his own play
– Regarded by scouts around the league as the most under-rated prospect in the Penguins system
Strengths: Exceptional hands, strong shot.
– Protects the puck well, quick passer when a defender is closing in
– Uses his size well– behind and around the net
– Ability to pick corners, snap shot is his biggest asset
– Not afraid to establish a net presence
– Reliable player in the defensive zone
Weaknesses: Needs more consistency
– Has not shown the ability to dominate at the college or AHL level, despite the physical skills he possess.
– Concerns surround his skating ability, most notably his acceleration at the next level coming off the boards.
Potential – 3rd line two way player
4. Ben Hanowski – Age 20
Born: 10-18-1990, Little Falls, MN, USA
Height: 6-2 Weight: 198 lbs
Position: RW Shoots: L
2009 3rd round draft pick Estimated Arrival: 2013
Current Team: St. Cloud State (NCAA)
Latest Buzz: 4/11/10: It was a struggle for Hanowski during his freshman season at St. Cloud state. Hanowski had 9 goals and 19 assists in 43 games played.
Scouting Report: Hanowski had a prolific high school hockey career scoring 73 goals and 135 points (73-62-135) in 31 games, for Little Falls (2008-2009) during his senior season. However, he’s a prospect that needs time to develop in the college ranks.
Strengths: Exceptional puck skills, had drawn comparisons to Tomas Vanek, according to one draft report, when it came to his stick handling/goal scoring ability
– Had a knack for scoring goals at the high school level
– Elusive when a defender is closing on him
– Good at moving the puck in tight
– Smart two way player
– Hard worker, student of the game
– Performed well in testing drills at Penguins prospect camp in drills that had an emphasis on quick feet
Weaknesses: Not an exceptional skater, lacks breakaway speed but has quick feet.
– Overall Skating ability which could hinder his NHL prospects.
– Body needs to fill out
– Needs atleast three years of college hockey to get stronger and prepare for the physicality of professional hockey
Potential – Top 9 forward
5. Dustin Jeffrey– Age 22
Born: 02-27-1988, Sarnia, ONT,
Height: 6-1 Weight: 199 lbs
Position: C Shoots: L
Signed to an ATO: Estimated Arrival: 2010-2011
Current Team: Wilkes Barre/ Scranton
Latest Buzz: Jeffrey leads Wilkes Barre with 71 points (24 goals – 47 assists) in 77 games played, however, concerns continue whether his game is built for the NHL.
Scouting Report: Two-way centerman who is an extremely good passer. Offensive game has developed at a higher than expected rate but questions remain whether he has a position at the NHL level. Remains to be seen if he can play wing at the next level
Strengths: Smart two way player
– Extremely good passer
– Puck possession player
– Good instincts in the defensive zone
Weaknesses: Lacks any kind of physical game
– Regarded as being too finesse
– Holds onto the puck too long
– Skating ability needs to improve
Potential – 3rd/4th line role player