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Angelo Esposito tries to find niche with Atlanta after a tough start to his pro hockey career

Sep 1, 2010, 2:15 PM EDT

At one point quite a few years ago, scouts touted Angelo Esposito as a top notch prospect. Since then, Esposito’s star power plummeted to earth dramatically.

He went from a possible top pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ at No. 20 overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and hasn’t had any luck since then. Considering the fact that he is coming off of ACL surgery, it’s not crazy to wonder if Esposito will ultimately just be part of the answer to the “Who did the Atlanta Thrashers get back in the Marian Hossa trade?” trivia question.

Yet, if you ask new Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, the book on Esposito shouldn’t be closed just yet.

“I don’t think he’s a 200-point scorer. The expectations, from a province [Quebec] so hockey-crazed, built him up into something he shouldn’t have been. I can tell you this: I’ve been impressed from the first day I met him. He’s genuine and hard-working and he gets along with everybody and works his [rear end] off all the time.”

Dudley also wanted to dispel another notion about Esposito that has become widespread and perhaps was among the factors that caused him to fall from a potential No. 1 overall pick to No. 20 where he was selected by Pittsburgh in 2007. Esposito, Dudley said, is not a prima donna.

“Nothing like that at all,” he said. “He’s one of the best kids. He wants nothing more than to play. Give him a role and he’ll do it.”

Though he’s been through a lot of turmoil for a player his age, it’s important to remember that Esposito is only 21-years-old. The Thrashers have seen some dramatic changes and a clear youth movement with forwards such as Evander Kane and Patrice Cormier coming to the forefront. With new general manager Rick Dudley taking over this summer, Esposito might have another chance to make good on what might be considerable untapped potential … or a lot of hot air.

If he’s not a prima donna as many feared, then it would be pretty hard to root against the hard-luck prospect.

  1. JPinChi - Sep 1, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    He’s actually coming off his second ACL surgery to the same knee. He had it wrecked in juniors and then had the same knee wrecked on an end-board collision just one year later in one of his first few starts for the Chicago Wolves last season.
    I hope ATL had insurance for his knee (or a frequent surgery discount card).

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