Eric Tangradi has had his chances to be a top six forward, but those days appear to have come and gone. After a turnover led directly to Toronto's first goal in last night's loss, head coach Dan Bylsma took Tangradi off of the second line, replacing him with Tyler Kennedy.
Tangradi would finish the game with 4:27 of ice time.
Today, it was announced that the 23 year old Philadelphia native would be relegated to the fourth line while Kennedy would move up to the second line to play with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Tanner Glass will move to the third line to play with Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke. Bylsma praised Kennedy's skating and ability to shoot the puck as a reason to move him up.
And that's where Tangradi's journey ends as a NHL prospect.
Everyone in Pittsburgh jokes that their dog could play on the same line as Malkin and Neal and still net twenty goals. But in the case of Tangradi, not only is he unable to score, he actually drags down the production of his line mates. He doesn't have the speed to keep up with Malkin, nor does he have the skating ability or skill to take a hit in the corner, stay upright, and win a puck battle to a teammate. It took less than three games for Dan Bylsma to figure this out and now the search is on for another winger.
But it wasn't always like this. Flashback to 2009. The Penguins send Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi, then, the second ranked prospect in the Ducks' system. Kunitz makes an immediate impact as a top-line winger, while Tangradi is seen as a project, hoping to become the next power forward ala Ryan Malone/Kevin Stevens. At the time of the trade, Tangradi was in the midst of finishing up his final season in the Ontario Hockey League. Playing for the Belleville Bulls, he racks up 88 points in 55 games.
At 6'4, 220 pounds, the size is definitely there for a physical forward. Unfortunately, the new NHL requires speed and quickness, skills Tangradi lacks. He spends time in the AHL with Wilkes-Baare scoring 17 goals and 22 assists in 65 games. The following season (2010-2011), he gets called up for fifteen games and scores his first career goal en route to the Penguins' first win at Consol Energy Center.
Since then, Tangradi has zero goals and just three assists. He's playing on a line with arguably the best player in the world, and a forty goal scorer. Yet, he cannot even touch the puck for a brief moment, before a goal is scored. He's been promoted during a time when injuries ravaged the roster, forced into a top six position as a means to jump start his career, only to massive underperform. To put it plainly, he's overmatched by the speed of both his teammates and the opponents.
Tangradi can move to the fourth line, but it's doubtful he'll dress on most game nights. The Penguins already have solid fourth line players in Craig Adams, Joe Vitale, and Dustin Jeffrey. Tangradi's best shot to see more ice time is to move to another team, a deal that may not happen until April when the Penguins are shopping for a serious top six forward. If he is included in the deal, it will be only as a throw-in player. Maybe he'll find success, but all signs point to the end of Tangradi's tenure as a top six talent.