2007 Prospects: Angelo Esposito, 16-year-old standout (Part 2)

By Simon Richard

He is a barely 16 years old and already speaks three languages fluently. He is articulate, with exceptional charisma. He completed two years in one in high school while playing 68 games across America. And hockey, he plays it so well that he may be at this moment the best of the 1989 vintage.

Angelo Esposito has everything needed to receive exceptional attention from the hockey world in the upcoming years.

Early training

The young phenom played minor hockey in Notre-Dame-de-Grace in Montreal. Esposito did not take the traditional path to being a hockey player. He began skating at the age of 3, but his passion then was for figure skating, not hockey.

“From my early days of skating until the age of 10, I did a lot of figure skating, practicing every morning, participating in many competitions and having success doing it,” Esposito recalled to Hockey’s Future after the game played on Oct. 1 in Quebec City.

Esposito began playing hockey at the age of 6, combining both sports. Nobody was laughing at him.

“I was the fastest player on the team so they had to respect me. Undoubtedly, figure skating contributed a lot making me a better hockey player. It helped me to have stronger legs, gain speed and have more balance and agility on the ice.”

At the age of 14, Esposito wanted to play in the midget AAA level, but a rule fixing the minimum age to 15 prevented him to reach his goal.

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“We helped Angelo to evaluate the options offered to him,” Kent Hugues from Impact Hockey and M5Sports agency said in a phone interview. “In that case, the best option is often a private high school, so we discussed about that option with Angelo’s parents and with Jean-Paul Parise, Hockey Director for Shattuck-St-Mary’s.”

In the fall of 2003, following the path of Ryan Stone, Zach Parise, Drew Stafford and Sidney Crosby, Esposito left his hometown for the famous prep school in Faribault, Minn. He spent two years there, playing among others with highly-touted 2006 NHL draft prospect Jonathan Toews (University of North Dakota).

“They took care of Angelo in Shattuck, it was great for him there. This prep is a small school, Parise is very close to the players and they have a deep respect for him,” observed Hugues.

“Those two years were very positive, I took the best decision going there,” stated Esposito. “At the beginning, I missed my family and my friends but then everything went fine. In the dormitory, I had a lot of time thinking and it did contribute to making me a more mature man.”

In 2004-05, Esposito recorded 66 points in 68 games. In April 2005, his team won the USA Hockey National Championships in the U-18 Tier 1 category.

Considered the NCAA option

In 2003, Crosby confirmed just a few days before the QMJHL Draft that he has chosenthe CHL to complete his development as a hockey player. Esposito, who was as well the indisputable No. 1 prospect for the 2005 QMJHL Draft, declared a few weeks before the event that he intended to pursue studies in medicine and thus was not coming in the CHL.

Reluctant to lose the best prospect available, QMJHL Commissioner Gilles Courteau declared a few hours before the draft he was hoping a team would take a chance with Esposito.

On June 4th 2005, convinced that Esposito would not choose the CHL, the Saint John Sea Dogs, selecting first at the draft, took Alex Grant. Nine other teams didn’t take a chance on Esposito either, before Quebec Remparts General Manager Patrick Roy made a surprising move making a trade to obtain the 11th choice, a property of the Val d’Or Foreurs.

“Patrick Roy had told me during the winter that he would select Esposito if an opportunity was there,” commented Hugues. Obviously, he kept his word.

“That is the first time in my long career that I saw the expected first overall pick being selected so far [down] in the draft,” Quebec Remparts Chief Scout Denys Faucher told Hockey’s Future a few days following the draft. “I’m confident that Patrick Roy will convince Angelo and his parents to change his mind,” added Faucher.

In the following weeks, Roy and the Espositos had discussions. Roy finally won his bet. On June 21, stunning many GMs across the QMJHL, both sides announced that Esposito had cleared the NCAA option and would play for the Remparts.

“My immediate goal is not practicing medicine but becoming a professional hockey player thus I’m now concentrating my efforts on hockey,” commented Esposito to HF in the Pepsi Colisee.

“I’m still studying, but because I completed two grades in one year in Shattuck, skipping a year so I have more time ahead.”

Esposito played 68 hockey games last year. How many kids would do so while completing two grades in one year? That says a lot about his persistence and his will to perform.

At 16 years old, he just has five classes to graduate high school, and is enrolled in three this semester.

A complete package

Many NHL scouts were in the Pepsi Colisee on Oct. 1, admiring a superb performance from Esposito.

“This kid will bring a lot of fans in the arenas. He is explosive on skates. His first three or four strides give him an edge on the opponents. He has a great hockey vision and passes the puck very well,” observed Atlanta Thrashers scout Normand Poisson. “When he is in the possession of the puck, he sees all the options offered to him and has the faculty to make a decision quickly.

“Esposito has an exceptional hockey sense. Like Crosby, he is a second ahead of all the others. He already accumulated many points so far this season. This guy will be an impact player and soon will be the best player in the league,” added Poisson.

New Jersey Devils scout Claude Carrier has seen three times Esposito in action so far.

“The first thing that comes in mind to me is the domination he shows on the ice,” Claude Carrier told HF in the Colisee’s stands. “One of the reasons he has success is the fact he is always in motion. When he is on the ice, he never gives up and makes things happen.”

Carrier observed that Esposito is already aware of his defensive game and is not just looking for scoring goals.

“He may not be as spectacular as Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky were at this age, but he definitively has a great charisma and the hockey fans will love him. He made a good choice coming to the QMJHL.”

Having a lot of talent does not necessarily procure success at pro level. Some former prospects like Alexandre Daigle demonstrated it in the past.

Don’t expect Esposito to have this kind of problem. A short chat with him gives a good idea of his maturity and his exceptional personality.

“He has an incredible maturity for a 16-year-old,” commented Hugues. “The way he speaks and thinks reflects more a 20-year-old. He has an impressive outlook on life and has his feet on the ground.”

According to Hugues, he is very appreciated by his teammates.

Often, little things say a lot. During the game against Rouyn-Noranda on Oct. 1, Quebec Remparts Kenzie Sheppard who was struggling a little bit so far this fall scored his first goal of the season. After the usual congratulations on this ice, Esposito, the youngest Remparts player on the ice, went to the opponent’s net recovering the puck for Sheppard. A few second later, from the press gallery, we clearly saw the large smile on Esposito’s teammate as the kid threw him the puck on the bench.

The summer in good company

Esposito has already won a national championship. He also had the occasion of training with the Stanley Cup winner and 2005 World Cup MVP Vincent Lecavalier.

“He is my role model, we have the same agent, Vincent’s brother Phil Lecavalier who works for Impact Hockey and M5Sports agency. We also share the same physical trainer Dave Arsenault.”

Esposito trained all summer long with Arsenault. He also had the chance playing hockey with several professionals, including Lecavalier, in Rosemere a suburb of Montreal.

“It was great, I felt part of the gang.”

A chance for the Under-20?

While asked what is his main goal in the near future beyond contributing to the Quebec Remparts success, Esposito said that he hopes to play for the U-17 Quebec team during the traditional Christmas tournament in December.

Some may have other projects for him, according to Roy.

“From what I have heard, he has excellent chances being invited to the final selection stage of the Canadian Junior Team,” said Roy proudly.

Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.