WILKES-BARRE — Because of the trickle-down effect of the NHL lockout, the American Hockey League is as star-studded as it has ever been.
From a pair of No. 1 overall draft picks in Oklahoma City (Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Taylor Hall) to a pair of Stanley Cup heroes in Manchester (Dwight King and Slava Voynov), blue-chip prospects are stationed in every corner of the league.
Despite that influx of talent, coming into this weekend, only four players in the AHL had scored more goals than Eric Tangradi's six.
“I want to be a top player in this league,” Tangradi said. “I want to be someone defensemen and teams scout to try to shut down.”
There's little doubt the 23-year-old Philadelphia native has accomplished that goal. In his last 82 games with the Baby Pens — the equivalent of a full NHL season — Tangradi has racked up 38 goals.
In 40 career NHL games, however, Tangradi has scored just once.
Does his steady AHL improvement indicate the light is coming on for Tangradi and NHL success is right around the corner? Or will his limitations — his skating, mostly — prevent him from ever being an impact player in the big league?
Baby Pens coach John Hynes is betting on the former, largely because of the kind of goals the 6-foot-4, 232-pound Tangradi is scoring. Of his six goals, one was an empty netter. Add up the distance the puck traveled on the other five and it wouldn't give you a first down.
“He's getting his goals the way he's going to need to get his goals in the National Hockey League,” Hynes said. “He's getting pucks in. He's a dominant factor in the offensive zone. He's moving his feet. He's attacking the net. The way he's playing now is the same game he's going to have to play at the next level.”
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