There was a time when Angelo Esposito was touted as the potential No. 1 overall pick for the 2007 NHL Draft. But his production dropped from 98 points to 79 points in his draft year and he slid down to No. 20 where the Pittsburgh Penguins were more than happy to select him. GM Ray Shero said at the time Esposito was very high on their draft board and he wasn't concerned about the reasons he was passed over by so many teams.
In the five years since, the 23-year old Esposito has taken a long journey through hockey and on Thursday it was confirmed that he's signed a 1-year deal with the Lahti Pelicians of the SM-liiga (Finland), who you might know from their amazing commercials.
"He's a very skilled and mobile center with excellent merits from the juniors, including a World Championship. It's taken some time for him to blossom in professional leagues but maybe we can help him a bit with that," says [Head Coach] Kai Suikkanen.
His best known NHL contribution might be his inclusion in a deal that brought Marian Hossa from the Atlanta Thrashers to Pittsburgh in 2008, eight months after Esposito was drafted. After spending three years in the Atlanta organization, he was dealt to Florida Panthers last summer and then traded this past January to the Dallas Stars. Esposito has played 124 AHL games over four seasons and is yet to make his NHL debut.
After needing surgery on the same ACL multiple times throughout his pro career, Esposito could never really get going. He played 57 games last season which two AHL organizations and three in the ECHL.
Esposito is just 23 years old, though it seems he's been around forever. Like Suikkanen said, getting this opportunity in Europe could be the chance he needs to finally gain some traction and develop toward what his potential is and not turn into a hockey journeyman.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy