Team: Quebec Remparts
The Skinny: The Montreal native once thought to be the 2007 draft leader last year has now played himself out of that race and possibly even a top 10-15 selection. Exit: the youthful, exuberant, ultraskilled Canadian, optimistically vying for the 2007 #1 spot. Enter: the overhyped, lazy, failed-to-bring-it Canadian, now watching his stock fall down the draft ranking ladder. The talent is still there, but for a player to continue to challenge for the top selection he must expand his portfolio. Was it too much hype? Possibly. Does Esposito have a bad attitude? No. Part of Esposito's reduced production stems from the loss of shotgun winger Alex Radulov. When Radulov moved on to the AHL and then the NHL, Esposito surely lost a talented linemate, which makes us believe there may have been some stat inflation. But, DraftBuzz also believes he neglected to improve and heighten the rest of his game. We all know his offensive gifts are plenty. He’s a fast skater with a bowlegged stride, and as a result is a threat on the rush with his speed and arsenal of moves. Esposito has confidence in his ability to rush the puck and lead his team into the offensive zone. And he is a factor in all three zones because of his speed. With all this speed, however, comes the foremost concern we have. Most of his areas needing improvement all boil down to one thing: hockey sense. Esposito skates around the play and makes us question his hockey IQ and anticipation. He routinely has to play catch up in his own zone, and he does not exhibit the respected hockey savvy a player like Sam Gagner does. Similarly, Esposito rarely elects to take the safe play and almost always tries to beat defenders either wide with his speed or dekes with many attempts failing and turned up ice for odd man rushes. He is a liability in his own zone, as he is a visible step behind the play and is vulnerable to taking unnecessary penalties as a result. The potential is there for this recently much maligned prospect, but there is concern that Esposito's drawbacks go deeper than just quantified, trainable skills.
2006-2007 Regular Season Stats
60 games 27 goals 52 assists 79 points +9 63 PIM
WJC U18 '07 - Team Canada
6 games 3 goals 3 assists 6 points +3 0 PIM
Draft Day Status/Projection: Esposito is a love 'em or hate 'em type of prospect. Even though we are not fans of his game, DraftBuzz is cognizant of the fact that teams do like his upside and are willing to accept his flaws for now. So, it would not be surprising to see a team nab Esposito in the 11-20 range.
(photo courtesy of getty images)