Saturday, November 27, 2010

Failed Prospects - Angelo Esposito

Flashback to 2005. Sydney Crosby has moved onto the NHL and the QMJHL is looking for its next big name. Angelo Esposito, a 16 year phenom steps in and scores 98 points in just 57 games including 39 goals. Surely this kid is going to be a superstar. Angelo really couldn't do anything wrong during the regular season, he had Radulov on his wing playing for the Remparts. Radulov put up 21 goals and 55 points in 23 playoff games, but come playoff time Angelo found trouble maintaining that same production. Maybe he was burnt-out from too much hockey that season? After all, including international action he was pushing 100 games and Esposito was only 16 years old.

The following season, Radulov departed and Esposito's number dropped as well, he managed a modest 79 points in 60 games as a 17 year old. Remparts didn't last long in the playoffs, but Espo almost matched his previous season playoff total playing in just 5 games. Then comes the draft and in 2007 he is picked 20th overall by the Penguins, clearly this is a steal for a prospect who was once considered a better prospect than Patrick Kane.

However, as an 18 year old his numbers dropped again. He finished third on the Remparts team in scoring behind players Felix Petit and Kelsey Tessier. Esposito scored 69 points in 56 games that season. Esposito's last successful season came the following year in 08-09 with the Montreal Juniors when he started with 24 goals and 42 points in 35 games. However, a knee injury and subsequent surgery ended that season and it seems that he really has never been the same since.

Over the last two seasons, Esposito has put up 5 points; 1 goal and 4 assists in 24 games. In fact, this season with the Chicago Wolves, he has 1 goal in 11 games. Angelo will turn 22 this February so, it is difficult to say his career is over. However, he definitely has fallen from grace especially considering he was an early favourite to be the number 1 pick in the 2007 draft. I am not sure if he was as great of a player as he was fortunate to have been playing with a talented team at a young age, but, Esposito clearly had enough potential to be selected in the first round and his NHL future really looks to be in doubt. Esposito was apart of the trade that brought Hossa from Atlanta to Pittsburgh and as of today he is still in the Atlanta system which is the good news. If he is ever going to crack the NHL it will likely be with a young and inexperienced team desperate for scorers. The bad news for Angelo is since turning pro, his production has been far from desirable and the AHL may be the highest level of hockey he will ever play. There was a time when I was trying hard to see him as a junior player because I wanted to say I saw him as a 16 year old tearing up the junior leagues much like people still speak of Crosby, Lemieux, Gretzky or even Lafontaine. However, it appears that Angelo may have peaked at 16 and the fall from grace has continued from that point on.

I guess it goes to show that drafting NHL talent is a difficult process and there is no such thing as a "sure thing". While it isn't over for Angelo, it is a long way from the prediction many people had for Esposito.
Here is a photo I found of a Heroes and Prospects card from ITG of Angelo Esposito. You can buy this card on ebay for less than $10.00. I wish him all the luck in the future and I hope he can make it to the NHL someday, but I have a feeling he will likely have a similar fate experienced by Kory Kocur another successful junior player who couldn't turn a first round pick into a single NHL game.

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