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What could Anthony Angello bring to the Penguins in 2021-22?

The pros and cons of a powerful center still developing his two-way game.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins
Anthony Angello skates against the Bruins in Boston on April 3, 2021.
Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

After Anthony Angello skated in 19 games with the Penguins from Feb. 27 to April 3, 2021, he returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to spend the rest of the season growing his game in the AHL.

When watching Angello’s performance in the 10 AHL games he played after his stint in Pittsburgh, where he scored five times and recorded 10 points, two qualities to his game immediately jump out: one very positive, and one which displays some room for improvement.

Where Angello excels: A powerful shot

At 6-foot-5, only fellow newbie Radim Zohorna beats out Angello on the Penguins’ height chart. That size makes it difficult for him to win speed races, although he did show off his long stride by skating end-to-end and scoring when the Devils visited Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 8. It also lends him an impressive reach that can help him beat others on the poke-check, like when he knocked the puck away from his opponent on his quick-minded secondary assist against the host Bears on April 24.

Most importantly, Angello’s size offers him enough leverage for a lethal shot.

The clip described is at 1:06 of the video above. Angello wears No. 17.

Angello’s greatest strength, immediately apparent to Baby Penguins fans this season, was captured by his goal against the visiting Devils on May 5: his powerful one-timer, especially from the left side, is forceful enough to stun opposing goaltenders and well-placed enough to reach twine. That shot is a major reason Angello shot an AHL career-best 19.4% for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2020-21.

Where Angello has room to grow: A slow backcheck

While the offensive upside to Angello’s game is immediately apparent, so is the accompanying defensive downside. The forward is still working on becoming an effective part of the Baby Penguins’ backcheck.

The clip described is at 2:35 of the video above. Angello wears No. 17.

This goal against during a clash with the visiting Bears on May 1 encapsulates the problem: although Angello begins the play between the opponent and the defensive zone, he is unable to turn around fast enough to beat him to the net and doesn’t use his stick to hamper the ensuing shot.

Angello was not one of the Baby Penguins’ most effective skaters on the backcheck in 2020-21. He’s usually not the first one back, and if he is, he doesn’t seriously impede the challenging opponent. If the defensive side of his game shows growth this season, he could raise his value as a bottom-six forward on the already-depleted 2021-22 Penguins roster.