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Penguins prospect Tangradi sets lofty goals

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Next man up

Of all the players in Wilkes-Barre, Eric Tangradi is the most ready to contribute in the NHL once the lockout ends. Here is the rest of the top 12, listed with position, height, weight and age.

2. Robert Bortuzzo (D, 6-4, 219, 23): A physical force in the “D” zone after missing the first seven games with a lower-body injury.

3. Brian Strait (D, 6-1, 201, 24): A cut above other AHL defensemen when it comes to poise and hockey sense.

4. Simon Despres (D, 6-3, 217, 21): Less polished but more dynamic than the top three players on this list. Has been working on his penalty killing.

5. Jeff Zatkoff (G, 6-2, 180, 25): Free-agent addition from the goalie-rich Kings organization has moved ahead of Brad Thiessen on the depth chart.

6. Paul Thompson (RW, 6-0, 200, 23): After a quiet rookie season, Thompson has six goals this year, including an overtime winner and a natural hat trick.

7. Phil Dupuis (C, 6-0, 195, 27): The team's new crop of free agents hasn't set the AHL on fire. Dupuis, a versatile former Toronto farmhand, has been the best of the bunch.

8. Dylan Reese (D, 5-11, 202, 28): Upper St. Clair product has played 74 NHL games the last three seasons and it shows in his two-way play.

9. Beau Bennett (RW, 6-1, 195, 20): Still learning the system and could use some added strength, but his offensive creativity is undeniable.

10. Brian Dumoulin (D, 6-3, 210, 21): Acquired in the Jordan Staal deal, he has a knack for erasing scoring chances but is still a little iffy with the puck.

11. Benn Ferriero (RW, 5-11, 185, 25): Free-agent addition was an AHL scorer and part-time NHL contributor with the San Jose organization.

12. Joe Morrow (D, 6-1, 198, 19): A great skater with a big shot and predatory offensive instincts, he's still learning the pro game.

By Jonathan Bombulie
Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 6:56 p.m.

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.”

Jonathan Bombuli is a freelance writer.



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