Eric Tangradi: Bust or simply an unfinished project?

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

As Eric Tangradi tries to stick in the NHL, let's take a look at similar guys to see if he's on track.

Eric Tangradi has been a source of contention among Penguins fans. Once upon a time looked at as the main piece in the Ryan Whitney trade, in many fans' eyes he has turned from being a major prospect to a major bust. Is this true, or can he still claim the status of budding power forward?

Let's start with what we know about Tangradi. He's in his age-23 season in his fourth year as a professional, and he doesn't score well at the NHL level. Let's take a look at where he's come from and where is he now.

YEAR	AGE	TEAM		LEVEL	GP	G	A	PTS	Shots	SH%
2006-07	17	Belleville	OHL	65	 5	15	20
2007-08	18	Belleville	OHL	56	24	36	60
2008-09	19	Belleville	OHL	55	38	50	88
2009-10	20	Wilkes-Barre	AHL	65	17	22	39	136	12.5
2009-10	20	Pittsburgh	NHL	 1	 0	 0	 0	  3	0.0
2010-11	21	Wilkes-Barre	AHL	42	18	15	33	138	13.0
2010-11	21	Pittsburgh	NHL	15	 1	 2	 3	 18	5.6
2011-12	22	Wilkes-Barre	AHL	37	15	16	31	 86	17.4
2011-12	22	Pittsburgh	NHL	24	 0	 2	 2	 20	0.0
2012-13	23	Pittsburgh	NHL	 5	 0	 0	 0	  4	0.0

Two things strike me about this set of data. The first is that Tangradi is not getting shots on net at the NHL level, with 1.0 shots per game as compared to 2.5 shots per game in Wilkes-Barre. I haven't done the research to know whether this is because he's missing the net, getting his shots blocked, or simply not getting chances, but it's worth mentioning. The second thing is that his shooting percentage in the NHL is well below his career AHL numbers over a much smaller sample size. So the first conclusion we come to is that if he had been as lucky in the NHL as he was in the AHL with 13.9% shooting, he'd have 6 goals instead of 1. Still not lighting it up, but it might have earned him more ice time with which to toss more shots at the opposition's net.

Let's look at a few players who profile similarly to Tangradi, in that they're somewhere around 6'4" tall and in the 215-to-230-pound range.

Player 1

YEAR	AGE	TEAM		LEVEL	GP	G	A	PTS	Shots	SH%
1998-99	19	Omaha		USHL	51	14	22	36
1999-00	20	St. Cloud St.	WCHA	38	 9	21	30
2000-01	21	St. Cloud St.	WCHA	36	 7	18	25
2001-02	22	St. Cloud St.	WCHA	41	24	25	49
2002-03	23	St. Cloud St.	WCHA	27	16	20	36
2002-03	23	Wilkes-Barre	AHL	 3	 0	 1	 1	   2	 0.0

This is the entirety of this player's career through his age-23 season. He was drafted after the 36-point effort in US Juniors, which is to say nothing terribly impressive, and not much he did after that point indicated that he'd have much of an NHL career.

Player 2

YEAR	AGE	TEAM		LEVEL	GP	G	A	PTS	Shots	SH%
1983-84	18	Boston College	ECAC	37	 6	14	20
1984-85	19	Boston College	H-East	40	13	23	36
1985-86	20	Boston College	H-East	42	17	27	44
1986-87	21	Boston College	H-East	39	35	35	70
1987-88	22	United States	Nat-Tm	44	22	23	45
1987-88	22	Pittsburgh	NHL	16	 5	 2	 7	 22	22.7
1988-89	23	Muskegon	IHL	45	24	41	65
1988-89	23	Pittsburgh	NHL	24	12	 3	15	 52	23.1

This player was drafted the summer before the first season listed here. It's clear that the player progressed fairly linearly, but still did not make a huge impact in the NHL until his age-24 season when he was finally able to log a normal-looking number of shots on goal.

Player 3

YEAR	AGE	TEAM		LEVEL	GP	G	A	PTS	Shots	SH%
1987-88	18	U Vermont	ECAC	31	12	22	34
1988-89	19	U Vermont	ECAC	18	 9	12	21
1989-90	20	U Vermont	ECAC	10	10	 6	16
1990-91	21	U Vermont	ECAC	33	25	20	45
1990-91	21	Montreal	NHL	10	 2	 5	 7	 12	16.7
1991-92	22	Fredericton	AHL	 8	 7	 7	14
1991-92	22	Montreal	NHL	59	 8	11	19	 73	11.0
1992-93	23	Montreal	NHL	72	19	25	44	139	13.7

Again, we're seeing a certain pattern developing here. Like Player 2, this player was drafted before any season listed here.

Player 4

YEAR	AGE	TEAM		LEVEL	GP	G	A	PTS	Shots	SH%
1987-88	16	Hamilton	OHL	47	 6	 6	 12
1988-89	17	Niagara Falls	OHL	48	20	35	 55
1989-90	18	Niagara Falls	OHL	65	57	70	127
1990-91	19	Adirondack	AHL	 6	 3	 5	  8
1990-91	19	Detroit		NHL	58	 3	12	 15	 33	 9.1
1991-92	20	Adirondack	AHL	42	21	24	 45
1991-92	20	Detroit		NHL	35	 6	10	 16	 27	22.2
1992-93	21	Detroit		NHL	73	15	17	 32	 75	20.0
1993-94	22	Detroit		NHL	78	31	42	 73	155	20.0
1994-95	23	Detroit		NHL	45	15	27	 42	 96	15.6

The only one of the bunch not to go to college, this player was drafted after his second season at Niagara Falls and went on to play in the NHL in his first season as a pro, much like Tangradi did, although this player saw 58 games rather than 1. Still, he failed to hit the point-per-game level until he was in his age-29 season (also his last good season, incidentally), although he was established as a perennial 25-goal scorer before that point.

Unfortunately, all this means is that the results are still inconclusive. As much as we'd hoped that Eric Tangradi would be the second coming of Dave Andreychuk, he's well past that point now. However, these three players should hopefully serve as a model for Tangradi's future if he continues to work hard and keep his head on straight.

Bonus InternetPoints™ to whomever can figure out who the anonymous players are in this study.

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