Friday, July 18, 2014

Meet Eric Esposito: UNH's Newest Recruit

15-year-old Eric Esposito

For the third time in as many months, a talented young player from a Connecticut prep school has verbally committed to the University of New Hampshire. 15-year-old Eric Esposito (DOB: 8/24/1998), a 5'11", 170 lbs. forward from West Haven, CT., has announced his commitment to UNH. Esposito recently completed a successful, freshman season at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT. In April, forward Joey Cipollone and defenseman Jake Ryczek of the South Kent School and Selects Hockey Academy also committed to play for the Wildcats.

Esposito posted some solid numbers in his first season at Loomis Chaffee. In 28 games, he scored 5 goals and added 6 assists. Among all freshmen in New England Prep School Hockey, he was tied for 7th in scoring. Loomis Chaffee won the 2014 New England Large Prep School Tournament Championship in early March. Eric's older brother Alex, a University of Vermont commit, was the team's second leading scorer.

Eric Esposito at Youngstown Phantoms' Tryout Camp
For Eric Esposito, helping Loomis Chaffee win its first hockey championship in school history was the first in a series of big events. In early May, the Youngstown Phantoms selected Esposito in the 16th Round of the Phase II USHL Draft. During the second week of June, he participated in the Phantoms' Tryout Camp in Youngstown, Ohio. While Esposito did not make Youngstown's 30-player roster, he was added to its Affiliate List. According to USHL rules, Youngstown retains the rights to Esposito and he could potentially "be added to (the) team’s active roster, play a limited number of games in a call-up situation, or will be looked upon to make the roster in future seasons."

Then, just last week, Eric competed in the USA Hockey Select 16 Player Development Camp outside of Buffalo. In 5 games, Esposito posted 2 goals and an assist. Jeff Cox, who covered the camp for SB Nation College Hockey, ranked Esposito as the 25th forward at the camp and provided this assessment:
"The recent Wildcat commit didn't have the greatest week statistically, but it's evident why Dick Umile and his staff like his potential. He has terrific patience waiting for the right time to pass and letting the play develop to his advantage. He sees the ice well and has nice speed. He occasionally tries to do too much with the puck, but that will improve as he continues to develop."
Last summer, Esposito participated in the Select 15 Player Development Camp and scored 2 goals and 5 assists in 5 games. Of the nearly 200 players at the camp, he finished tied for 6th in scoring.

Eric Esposito grew up playing youth hockey with the Connecticut Wolf Pack organization based in Cromwell, CT. In the 2012-13 season, the Wolf Pack Bantam Major team was ranked 11th in the country and competed in the USA Hockey Tier I 14U National Championship Tournament. Esposito was the team's second leading scorer with 41 goals and 31 assists in 76 games. Wolf Pack Coach Peter Alden provided this assessment of Esposito:
“Eric is a gifted puck-handler and really drives his team’s puck possession. He is a pure goal scorer and he has a very high upside as he continues to grow and mature. He has an excellent work ethic and in addition to his hockey ability, he is a really great kid.”
U.S. Hockey Report had this to say about Eric Esposito late in the 2012-13 season:
"Skilled forward will join his older brother at Loomis next season. The West Haven, Conn. native is very good with the puck on his stick; makes a lot of plays. Certainly has to get bigger, stronger, and faster in order to make an impact next season, but the skill level is certainly there."
Last fall, prior to the start of the NE Prep School season, Esposito played for the CT Wolf Pack U16 Midget Minor team. He posted 6 goals and 3 assists in 24 games.

Esposito began playing for the Wolf Pack as a Pee Wee. In early 2011, when he was 12 years old, he was selected to a Pee Wee All-Star team drawn from Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. As the New York Pee Wee Rangers, the team travelled to Quebec City to compete in the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament. It was coached by Doug Messier, father of Mark Messier. In the Championship Game against the Detroit Red Wings Pee Wee team, Eric scored the Pee Wee Rangers' second goal. The Pee Wee Rangers went on to win the Title Game 4-2. Of note, one of Esposito's teammates was recent UNH recruit Jake Ryczek.

I had an opportunity to interview Eric, via email, about his background, commitment to UNH, and future plans:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?
Eric Esposito: Thank you. UNH was an easy pick for me. I was really intrigued by the coaching staff running the team at UNH. It seems they handle their business very professionally. Also the tradition of the school supporting the hockey team and getting a lot of peers at the games to cheer the players on. Also the past players to come out of the UNH program impressed me greatly.

Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering?
Eric Esposito: I was considering a couple other schools besides UNH including the University of Vermont and the University of Connecticut.

Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?
Esposito: A certain date for my incoming freshman year hasn't been determined exactly. Either 17' or 18' are both options the coaches and I have discussed, all depending on my development with in the next few years. Hopefully I can be there as son as possible.

Lowry: You recently completed a solid freshman season with the Loomis Chaffee School. Your 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) put you in a tie for 7th in scoring among all freshmen in New England Prep Hockey. At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?
Esposito: After my first season in the prep league, I definitely found some of the strengths of my game and other areas that I need to work on. I think I used my strength and speed pretty well while playing with some high end players throughout the season. Areas that I need to improve on would be my taking time and space away from the opposing players in angling and forechecking.

Lowry: Do you plan on returning to Loomis Chaffee to play next season?
Esposito: I will be returning to Loomis Chaffee next season for sure.

Lowry: After being drafted by the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL in May, you participated in their tryout camp last month and made the team's affiliate list. Do you think you'll be ready to make the jump to the USHL in the 2015-16 season?
Esposito: As for the following season, I will hopefully be ready to jump into the USHL. I'm preparing for the higher pace and level of intensity but can't say for sure where I will be that far ahead just yet.

Lowry: I noticed that you were a teammate of recent UNH recruit Jake Ryczek on the New York Pee Wee Rangers team that won the 2011 Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament. What was that experience like?
Esposito: I did play a pretty memorable tournament with Jake. I can honestly say that's my favorite memory growing up, winning a tournament that big at such a young age was crazy. All those fans, playing on that big of a stage was like nothing else.

Lowry: In your time at the Loomis Chaffee School, what have been your academic strengths?
Esposito: Loomis Chaffee was a huge change of pace academically. I'm challenged everyday with my studies but if there's a subject I believe I do best in it would have to be English. I hope to excel there more and more in next year as well.

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