When the Penguins traded Ryan Whitney just before the deadline last year, they didn’t just get Chris Kunitz, they nabbed Belleville prospect Eric Tangradi, who instantly became the best power-forward in the Penguins system. After suffering a horrible wrist injury at the end of the season, Tangradi is set to head to camp this year with a chance to turn some heads and make the team. If not, he’ll head to Wilkes-Barre, where his power-forward show will be on the pro circuit for the first time. We caught up with Eric this past week as he continued training for this fall.

Jesse Marshall: First off, how is the wrist feeling and how is rehab going?

Eric Tangradi: I’m currently in my 7th week following my surgery and am now going through physical therapy. I was recently cleared two weeks ago to start workouts and the battle now is just regaining all the lost strength in my wrist and hand. Rehab is going as planned and I am taking small steps every week.

JM: What’s your off-season training regimen looking like?

ET: My summer workouts are a rigorous 3 hour a day session going from Monday through Thursday throughout the summer. My gym is an amazing facility (Endeavorfit.com) and it is very hockey specific. Along with explosive lifting, I skate on their skating treadmill twice a week and I’m shooting a lot of pucks on the synthetic ice surface they have.

JM: A lot of people in Pittsburgh haven’t had a chance to see you play yet. Could you describe yourself as a player to those people?

ET: I would describe myself as a very gritty left winger. I work for every inch on the ice and open the play up for myself by being very physical. I don’t often score a lot of highlight reel goals, but I am able to capitalize on the ones around the net where a lot of guys don’t like to be. I’m a power forward.

JM: It seems as if you’ve really been using your size to your advantage, especially this year. Can you talk about how you’ve implemented your size, strength and reach into your game?

ET: I would say the area of my game that is the best is my ability to protect the puck down low and use power moves to get to the net. My size, strength and reach are things I was born with and I think I’ve used that to my advantage. There is still plenty of room for me to get stronger, though.

JM: Talk about the physical aspect of the game for a second. Do you find yourself going onto the ice looking for that big hit? Is being physical something that you try to do regardless of the situation?

ET: I never really try to look for big hits, only because most of the time then can get you out of position, but there is no greater feeling than having a guy lined up that you know you’re going to bury. Without me being a physical presence, my game wouldn’t be the same. I would say I need to be physical to be effective.

JM: Being a Philadelphia native, what was your reaction upon finding out you’d been dealt to Pittsburgh?

ET: At first it was a bit of shock, not because I was from Philly, but just because that was the first time I had ever been traded. I really didn’t know what to think. After talking to everyone in Pittsburgh, I know I’m a part of a world class organization. I’m ecstatic about getting started in the organization. The great thing about it is Wilkes-Barre is around the corner, and I’ve grown relationships with people there. Pittsburgh is not too far either.

JM: What’s the one thing that Eric Tangradi needs to work on to become a more complete player?

ET: It’s a huge jump from junior to pro hockey. Next year I understand that I will be playing against men. In order for me to be successful, I need to get stronger and more explosive, which is the key point in my training this summer.

JM: What’s the biggest lesson you learned in your time with Belleville?

ET: My Coach in Belleville was always very honest with me, and I learned to be more patient on the ice and to just focus on every shift. I think I have improved tremendously since my first year and I’ve learned how to use my big frame a lot better.

JM: Heading into camp this season, do you have an expectation or a set goal? Are you setting out to make the NHL right away?

ET: Honestly I don’t like to set specific goals heading into camp. I can only do what is in my control. I’m focused on being in great shape heading into camp, and as far as my performance, I am going to play my game and show the type of player that I am. Hopefully I can make someone make a tough decision, but no matter where I end up I know it’s for the best.

JM: Did you watch the Stanley Cup Final and how was it to watch the guys that may be your future linemates lift the Cup?

ET: No sport compares to the intensity of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Watching Game 7 was unbelievable. It was great to see Pittsburgh hoist the cup, and with the young talent they have it would great to be apart of it again in the future.

JM: Time for the easy stuff. NHL Idol growing up?

ET: Keith Primeau, the reason I wore number 25 in Belleville. He was a great captain and will always be my favorite Flyer.

JM: Do you have a nickname?

ET: Guys on my team call me Tanger.

JM: Any weird lockerroom superstitions?

ET: I’m very specific on game days. I like a cup of coffee, then I have an order of things I like to do, but I keep them to myself.

JM: Pregame meal?

ET: Chicken and Pasta with a Caesar Salad.

Thanks to Eric for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us. We wish him the best in his continued recovery and we can’t wait to see him put on a Penguins jersey this year.