It's funny. Years ago fans of the Penguins looked at prospect camp as an opportunity to see which guys would, in all likelihood, play of a majority of their games with the parent club before the season was through. There were of course a number of reasons behind this: lack of money, lack of depth and generally just an overall young club looking to gain some valuable, hard-earned experience.
These days, as you can imagine, that is hardly the case. That's not to say a center joining camp doesn't have a future to look ahead to, but let's be honest: unless fans witness a season like last year again (please Lord Stanley, no) then it's not the easiest of positions for a youngin to crack.
With that said, there's been some pretty good pieces circulating out there on the Internets with regards to some of the newer faces surrounding Penguins prospect camp. I'm particularly stoked to see Philip Samuelsson, son of former Pen Ulf, getting some time with the coaches. The Penguins' official site did a pretty good write up on him. I had a chance to meet and interview both him and his dad at the 2009 NHL Draft. Each felt it would take about two years or so before he really started to develop into the sort of player the Penguins might be interested in, so now's as good a time as any for him to hit the ice with the Pens.
The Tribune-Review took a deeper look at some of the prospects, mainly those form the surrounding Pittsburgh areas such as Rob Madore and Andrew Blazek. Those guys are the sort of players who know space is kind of limited on the Pittsburgh club, but know that leaving a good impression doesn't go unnoticed in the eyes of Ray Shero and company.
And yet while we take a look at some of these new faces, some of whom have been invited to their first Pens prospect camp, we're also left to look at one of the players who continues to draw support in both Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh. This, of course, is Eric Tangradi.
I think the best way to sum up the Tangradi Train of Fandom around these parts is to break it down into two categories: you're either with him, or you're against him. From what little we saw last season - one goal and two assists in 15 games - I think it's safe to say we all left wanting more. The unfortunate part is he probably would've had it too given the number of injuries to the team had he not been injured himself in that charade of a game on Feb. 11 against the New York Islanders.
Shelly Anderson writes in the Post-Gazette:
Still, the budding power forward is digging being in a comfortable, familiar setting this week. Not only that, but he also is something of the big man on campus at the club's annual development camp as the only one who has played in the NHL.
I can't determine if that's a good thing or not. I'm not here to dissect Anderson's words or anything, but I find a special kind of analysis deriving from that description. Can a 22-year-old, going on 23 in February, still be considering "budding?" If he does have NHL experience, is he forced to play down to his fellow classmen while in camp?
It's good that the Pens' front office is still working him into the early plans. The fact he's in camp is testament to the fact that they are not just dismissing him as another NHL-ready forward who's earned his keep. But let's also not forget he suffered a concussion last season. Unlike the highly-documented one that affected the captain of the team, Tangradi's was not given nearly as much press. With that said, perhaps this is the team's way of testing out his progress since the injury. Either way, if Tangradi is expected to be on the starting roster next season, then it looks good on him for joining camp and gives us plenty of reason to cut him some slack until he has his chance to prove otherwise.
Also remember, our boy Tony is keeping an eye on some of the WBS signings on his blog Highland Park Hockey. So check it out to see what he has to say about the re-signings of Dustin Jeffrey, Joey Mormina and Ryan Schnell, to name a few.
I know keeping an eye on prospect camp can be kind of hit or miss, but who do you guys have your eyes on as top considerations coming out? Anyone potentially NHL-ready that we don't know about?
Chat it up. Floor is yours.