|Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Angelo Esposito, the 20th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, has taken advantage of
his opportunity playing for Quebec in the
QMJHL by posting solid scoring numbers.
has been a dominating force while playing for the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The highly skilled forward has averaged more than a point per game in his two-plus seasons. So many thought Esposito was done with junior hockey when he was selected by Pittsburgh with the 20th overall selection of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
But when the Penguins sent Esposito back to his junior club during training camp, Esposito took it not as a setback, but rather an opportunity to refine his game this season so he can become a future member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It was for the best for me,” Esposito said. “I’m only 18 and I have a lot to work on. I’m just going to take it day by day and I am going to make sure I am the best player all of the day and every day.”
Esposito has looked extremely comfortable back in junior. In 25 games, he has 15 goals and 17 assists and is plus-13. Esposito plays with passion and shows his offensive prowess when he is out on the power play. His defensive game is blossoming and that means ice time at the end of the team’s penalty kill. In fact, while Esposito has three power-play goals, he also has scored twice shorthanded.
Defense is something Remparts coach Patrick Roy, the NHL’s all-time winningest goalie, preaches to his team. It’s a work in progress; earlier this season against Rimouski, Roy saw the opposition erase a five-goal deficit to make it a close game.
“No, it’s not hard to watch,” Roy said of that effort. “I thought it was a great show tonight. There was a lot of offense involved. Obviously, we certainly would have appreciated seeing our team play better defensively. There are some details we didn’t do as well in tonight’s game, but overall we have to be pleased with the effort. We certainly need to learn from our mistakes defensively and get better for the next games.”
As a former goaltender, Roy loves to see offense, but he wants to make sure his team is strong defensively. That’s something that will have a positive impact on Esposito in the long run.
Weighing 190 pounds these days, Esposito is playing a more physical brand of hockey.
“I am a pretty big guy and I have put some weight on me and I can play physical,” he said. “This year is going to be an important year to make sure that I work on all of my game and that’s part of it.”
The Remparts boast a real family atmosphere and Roy has been a mentor to Esposito. The goalie opened his home to the future star when Esposito reported to the team. Before this season began, both of Roy’s sons – Jonathan and Frederic – attended the club’s training camp, which was a lot of fun, Esposito says.
Jonathan made the team as a backup goaltender who should play around 25 games this season and Frederic, who is a forward, is playing midget hockey this season.
“It was pretty cool,” Esposito said. “Jonathan and Freddy, I’m pretty close to them and I lived at their house for a while. Jonathan’s one of my best friends. Having them both there and their dad, who I am pretty close to, was pretty special.”
Esposito’s first season under Roy was 2005-06. Later that season, the Hall of Fame goalie guided the club to a Memorial Cup victory. To make sure Esposito would be ready for the next step, Roy switched him from center to the wing last season.
Esposito is an assistant captain and knows he must assume a leadership role.
“I am going to make sure that I am working hard and all of the team is always working hard, too,” he said. “I am just going to take it game by game.”
Based on his resume Esposito won’t have to wait too long to make his Penguins debut. For now, though, he is making sure he improves his game at the junior level so he can one day excel in the NHL.