COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Pittsburgh Penguins have a deep pool of young talent – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Whitney to name a few.
That pool just got a little deeper Friday night in Columbus as the Penguins selected center Angelo Esposito with the 20th-overall selection at the NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena. (Watch Video 500K
|Angelo Esposito 300K |
He’s one more good player. It’s no different than last year when we drafted Jordan Staal,” Penguins General Manager Ray Shero said. “Like I said last year, good players like to play with good players. He has great speed. He’s going to be a real good player.”
Esposito was considered the top prospect in this year’s draft crop early on and was ranked first in NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings. However, he wound up eighth in the final rankings despite racking up 79 points (27+52) in 60 games for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL.
So, how surprised were the Penguins to see Esposito’s name not on the draft board when their pick came? They didn’t even have an Esposito nameplate to affix to the Penguins jersey they presented him on stage.
“We’re not sure why he slipped that far, but from our standpoint we don’t care because we really like the player,” Shero said. “We had him very high on our list. So much so that we didn’t have a nameplate for him because we didn’t think he’d be there at No. 20. That’s great.
“I think he’s a wonderful pick. With a kid like him who has had so much pressure and all the expectations. I think, coming into our environment, we have a lot of guys who can take that pressure off him. So, I think he’ll, like a Jordan Staal, fly under the radar a bit and be able to settle in and be around some good other young players. I think it’ll be good for him.”
Esposito was surprised, too, but thrilled to join the Penguins.
“It’s not disappointing at all. I have not been happier in my life, I think, other than winning the Memorial Cup. Landing with a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins – I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “I have no idea why I wasn’t picked higher. It’s in the past now and I am looking to the future. I am going to take it day-by-day now. I couldn’t be any happier to be with the Pittsburgh Penguins now.
“It was a long wait there, but once your name gets called and my name got called by the Pittsburgh Penguins – I couldn’t say it before, but it was a team I’d love to play on and I am happy I am here. Once they called my name, I was happy and forgot about anything else.”
Esposito, who played at Quebec under former NHL all-star goaltender Patrick Roy, is a center. However, with Crosby, Malkin and Staal manning that position with the Penguins, Esposito has no problems playing on the wing.
“No, not at all. It’s going to be a challenge for me. We’ll see what happens in training camp. I can’t look too far ahead,” he said. “This year, Patrick put me on the wing for about a month and a half, just to make sure I adapted to playing there.”
Esposito doesn’t care about where he plays on the ice – he just hopes to skate with the Penguins as soon as possible.
“I am working hard this summer. My goal next season is to play in the NHL. If it doesn’t happen and I have to wait a year or so, I wouldn’t be upset,” he said. “It helps me out [that youngsters like Staal and Crosby had an impact at such a young age]. I guess if I work hard, I hope I can earn my chance.
“Sidney Crosby, all these names have gone through Pittsburgh. I kind of forget what happened on my walk to the stage,” he continued. “I am very fortunate. It’s great.”
Profile from NHL.com:
Quebec Remparts - QMJHL
6'1" 180 lbs. Center, shoots left
February 20, 1989
Born in Montreal, Quebec
Final Ranking: 8
Mid-Term Ranking: 1
Central Scouting Report:
A skilled forward with excellent skating ability… his top-end speed and mobility backs off defenders…sees the ice well and has the ability to make pin-point passes… not afraid to go to the net… needs to increase his physical presence and his play in traffic… needs to show more consistency.
Participated in the 2007 CHL Top Prospects Game on Team White for Scotty Bowman and Jacques Demers… was named QMJHL Player of the Week on Nov. 16, 2006 after registering 11 points (4-7-11) in three games… had three assists for Team QMJHL in the two-game All-Star series, 2006 Canada-Russia Challenge … member of the 2006 Memorial Cup Champion Quebec Remparts, posting five points (1-4-5) in four Memorial Cup games… awarded the Michel Bergeron Trophy as the QMJHL's Top Offensive Rookie in 2005-06… named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team in 2005-06… attended Team Canada's selection camp for the 2007 World Junior
Championships… captained Team Canada to a gold medal at the Under-18 Junior World Cup in the Czech Republic in 2006.
His friends call him Espo… wears #7 because it is his lucky number… figure skated from age three to 10… fluent in three languages - French, English and Italian… patterns his game after his favorite player, Vincent Lecavalier
of the Tampa Bay Lightning
because "he's a great offensive player"… names his parents, for their support and Remparts' head coach Patrick Roy, a good mentor, for having the most influence on his career… most memorable hockey game: the Memorial Cup Championship in 2006 - "it was such a great feeling winning"… most memorable hockey game watched: the rerun of the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union, "watching Canada win is
something I like to see"… favorite shootout move: "backhand top corner"… pre-game ritual includes being the first one dressed before the game… if he could have dinner with any three people he would choose: actor Keifer Sutherland, hockey great Phil Esposito (no relation) and cyclist Lance Armstrong… favorite movie is Rudy… favorite musicians are country singers Toby Keith and Keith Urban… Seinfeld and 24 are his favorite TV shows.
Season Team League GP G A PTS PIM
2006-07 Quebec QMJHL 60 27 52 79 63