Esposito good, but not Crosby good

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

MONCTON -- Angelo Esposito thinks it is funny his name has been spoken in the same breath as Sidney Crosby.

"You can't compare me to a player like Crosby," Esposito said. "He is mentioned with guys like Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky and I just came into the league as a regular 16-year-old."

Esposito may be being a little humble on that last point, but as his rookie season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League winds down at the Memorial Cup, he's right -- he is no Crosby.

However, he is something special, and already the favourite to be picked first overall in the 2007 National Hockey League entry draft. After being taken 11th overall by the Quebec Remparts last year -- other clubs passed on him, thinking he was going to play college hockey in the U.S., and it took some convincing from Remparts co-owner/coach Patrick Roy for him to report -- Esposito had a stellar season, putting up 98 points in 57 regular-season games. But he followed with just 11 points in 23 playoff games. Crosby, on the other hand, had 135 points in his rookie campaign and was named Canadian Hockey League player of the year.

Crosby was 16 during his first year in the QMJHL and Esposito turned 17 in February and given their youth, there were going to be assumed parallels. Bolstering that line of thinking was that like Crosby, Esposito, who is not related to Phil and Tony Esposito though he wears No. 7 like Phil did, also attended Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota.

"(Crosby) opened up some things for every player coming out of prep school and I'm happy to he did that because he is a great role model," said Esposito, who had two assists in a 6-3 win against the Vancouver Giants on Sunday. "I worked really hard to make a name for myself in the league. There were a few rough bumps, but it went well."

A Montreal native, Esposito failed in his attempt to become one of the few 16-year-olds to make Canada's junior team last winter, but it's hard to see how he won't earn a spot on the team for the 2007 tournament in Sweden. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound centre plays more in the style of Vincent Lecavalier, which is fine company. Esposito should soon become part of hockey fans' water-cooler talk across the country.

LEARNED A LOT

"I've learned a lot this season," Esposito said.

"Patrick (Roy) showed me a lot with all the experience he has, and that was big for me. At first it was a bit intimidating with him behind the bench, but he is just a regular guy who has a passion for hockey."


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