Penguins get Esposito

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Penguins get Esposito
I found myself watching the NHL Draft earlier, not sure why, but I did want to see who the Penguins would pick. Would they get a great defenseman? Would they take a right-handed winger with a flair for putting the puck in the net? I wanted to see who could help this team right away. Unfortunately that defenseman might not be in this draft, and that winger, Kyle Turris, was taken 3rd overall by the Coyotes. Trust me, look out for Turris. He needs to bulk up some and may take a year or two to make the NHL, but this guy can put the puck in the net. Beyond his scoring prowess, he moves well, is extremely skilled, is a great skater, can be physical, and tends to control the flow of games. He will be very good.

The Penguins didn't have the option of taking Turris, but as I watched the first 19 picks the announcers continued to label a Canadian center named Angelo Esposito as the NHL's version of Brady Quinn. This was a guy who just months earlier was projected as the No. 1 pick in the entire draft. A guy who still ranked 8th among North Americans and 12th overall on many scouting boards. He sat in his chair quietly watching the action. He didn't have the cocky look of disappointment Quinn had during his fall. With his hair slicked back Robert Luongo style, he just sat there with a stern look on his face. He didn't say anything to his family, he just sat there boiling. And here still he sat quietly in his seat as the Penguins were on the clock. The smile on Ray Shero's face while announcing the pick of Esposito said it all, he just can't get over the continued fortune of the Penguins in the draft. First the Crosby lottery win, then the Ovechkin draft somehow has Malkin too, then Staal's magnificence right away, and now Esposito drops right in their hands.

The question, of course, is why did Esposito fall so far? From what I've read in scouting reports and the like, he needs to "increase his physical presence and his play in traffic" and needs to "show more consistency." At the same time he's "not afraid to go to the net." Now listen, it does worry me that the kid lack's a physical presence. It was a huge problem for Evgeni Malkin in his rookie season and it could be for Esposito as well. The fact that the guy is willing to go to the net, however, shows me that hes not afraid to get dirty. He won't necessarily throw his body around the way Brooks Orpik does, but that's not his forte. As long as he does not succum to intimidation, he will be physical enough to allow his other skills to shine. As for consistency, that comes with maturing as a player. He will get there. The Penguins are almost to the point that it will be impossible to take a Crosby or a Malkin out of the play completely because there will always be a guy like Esposito or Staal waiting for their pass and an odd-man rush. Its becoming extremely scary what this team will look like in 3 years, not to mention in 6 years.

All things considered, I am very pleased the Penguins were able to pick up Esposito. Hes not the shut-down defenseman I was looking for. Hes not the right-handed power forward physical presence Crosby needs. At the same time, he was the best player available in the draft and you can't blame the Penguins for taking him. I'm actually extremely excited that they did. As long as the Penguins don't forget on day 2 of the draft and over the next season that they need a younger Chris Pronger and a younger Gary Roberts or 2, this team will make some statements come May 2008 and maybe even June. Who knows? What I do know is that there is no more exciting time to be a Pens fan and boy does this town need it(see: Pirates, Pittsburgh).

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