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The sad fall of Angelo Esposito, who was traded to Florida for Kenndal McArdle today

Jul 9, 2011, 8:14 PM EDT

Jared Knight, Kenndal McArdle AP

Every now and then, a hot sporting prospect falls far in a sport’s draft.

Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers weren’t just the last two NFL quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl, they also were players who waited longer than they expected to be drafted. Corey Perry won the 2011 Hart Trophy, but he was only the 28th player chosen in the historically strong 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The Anaheim Ducks might have gotten a steal in the 2010 draft as well when Cam Fowler fell to them at the 12th pick. For at least a few years, many NFL teams were chastised for passing up Randy Moss because of character issues that did indeed crop up during his Hall of Fame-worthy career.

Of course, for every should-be star who gets the cold shoulder from drafting teams after being fawned over by scouts, there are several guys whose nosedives end up being justified. While there’s always time for a sad story to take a happy turn, it’s tough to deny the feeling that NHL teams were right in passing on Angelo Esposito in 2007 until he fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins with the 20th overall pick.

Red flags on draft day

At the time, it was a jaw-dropping fall for a once-hot prospect who received at least some buzz to be the top pick of the ’07 draft. (Even ESPN’s mega-star columnist Bill Simmons swooped in to offer his take on Esposito landing to Pittsburgh, which he framed as a move so beneficial to the Penguins that there might have been a borderline conspiracy going on.) If there was some negativity about the move by Penguins GM Ray Shero, it was that the team was already well-stocked with centers.

Yet when you look at Esposito’s jagged path since then, it’s almost tough to believe that he was drafted just four years ago. After struggling at the lower levels of hockey compared to pre-draft years, the Penguins made him part of a February 2008 trade package that yielded them a rental run with Marian Hossa and solid years (still coming) with Pascal Dupuis. Esposito, Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen were supposed to produce a nice long-term return for the Atlanta Thrashers franchise in exchange for that short-term pain yet none of those three played for the team in 2010-11.

Jets trade Esposito to Florida for Kenndal McArdle

None of them will make an appearance for the newly christened Winnipeg Jets, either, as Esposito was traded to the Florida Panthers for fellow first round letdown Keendal McArdle (pictured) today. (Want a depressing sign of Esposito’s struggles? The main photo of this Esposito-centric post is of McArdle instead of Espo because McArdle was the only one of the two who actually played at the NHL level.)

Interestingly enough, McArdle was also a 20th overall pick in the NHL draft in 2005. He’s played 33 games at the NHL level – all for the Panthers – and scored three points in the process. Perhaps that makes him fitter for immediate use because Esposito hasn’t played at the pro level yet and really hasn’t been a standout player at the AHL level either (just 13 points in 57 games with the Chicago Wolves in 2010-11). Some might look at this swap as a trade of reclamation projects if they’re able to shake that feeling of what could have been for Esposito.

Could Esposito’s luck change?

The one hope the Panthers organization can hold out for Esposito is that he simply might be due for some good luck. He’s been traded by two different NHL teams and dealt with two different ACL tears in his short career. Maybe a little bit of health and a big change of scenery could do him a little good?

Ultimately it is tough to shake the feeling that Esposito is already a lost cause, but at 22 years old, maybe he just faced some serious bumps in the road.

  1. donttouchthedirtypenny - Jul 9, 2011 at 9:55 PM

    AHL level is considered a “pro” level. A more accurate statement is Esposito hasn’t played at the major league level.

    • James O'Brien - Jul 9, 2011 at 10:00 PM

      Fair point.

  2. aschwartz2011 - Jul 9, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    22 is a bit young to be calling a hockey player a bust. Hockey and baseball are two sports that really take time to grow into (football is too but they have college for that). He needs to just forget that he was a first round pick, and focus on getting better every day.

    • James O'Brien - Jul 10, 2011 at 1:29 AM

      Hopefully I addressed that point here:

      Ultimately it is tough to shake the feeling that Esposito is already a lost cause, but at 22 years old, maybe he just faced some serious bumps in the road.

      Not sure if you were addressing the post in general or just the sentiment that he is a bust, though.

  3. icelovinbrotha215 - Jul 10, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Even though 22 years old is young, for someone who was the next big thing, he may be all but a bust. Its been 4-5 years since this dude has been drafted. He hasn’t really lit up the AHL. So how will he do any better with the big boys? It was a lot of pressure he was under once he was drafted by PIT back in ’07. I’d be surprised if he amounts to anything in the NHL. I hope I’m wrong though.

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