Cornell men’s hockey junior forward Anthony Angello signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins last week. Angelo will likely start the next season with their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he hopes to eventually progress to Pittsburgh and the NHL.
His decision to leave early is not altogether surprising. In Pittsburgh’s mind, as a leading scorer for the third-ranked team in the country, Angello had improved all he could in college and was ready for a promotion to the professional league.
And, yes, Angello did have a very impressive season in 2017-18 — in addition to three other quality, double-digit goal seasons in Ithaca. In what was perhaps his most memorable performance for the Red, he scored his only collegiate hat trick on the road at Harvard this season.
He has always possessed an NHL-level wrist shot and has the height and speed to be an effective two-way player for the Penguins.
He projects as a third-line right winger, with possible second-line upside — not much unlike Matt Moulson ‘06. Moulson, who captained Cornell in the 2005-06 season, has played over 10 seasons in the NHL, reaching a high of 69 points for the New York Islanders in 2011-12. Although Angello’s Cornell production pales in comparison to Moulson’s point-scoring in Ithaca, he certainly has the potential to reach that level.
But there is a stronger case to be made that Angello’s decision to prematurely depart Ithaca may have been a mistake.
Moulson was the last Cornell forward to have a significant NHL career, and he played all four years in college. A fourth year in Ithaca could have allowed Angello the chance to be captain and serve as a leader. He would have had one more year to play with Mitch Vanderlaan and Brendan Locke, the two forwards that served as his linemates for much of the season. He would have had the opportunity to put together one more excellent campaign to show Pittsburgh why they should give him a serious chance at the NHL level.
There is also recent precedent for a forward leaving Cornell early, and that player’s situation was eerily similar to Angello’s current one. The player in question was Brian Ferlin ’14, who played a similar role in Cornell’s offense as the go-to scorer, posting statistics quite comparable to Angello’s. He skipped his senior year to join the AHL’s Providence Bruins, taking the same path that Angello has now chosen.
Yet Ferlin has spent most of the last four seasons in the AHL — not the NHL. In his first AHL season, he scored a measly 11 goals and 9 assists in 53 games. He still earned a chance to play for the Boston Bruins in the NHL — but after a lone assist in seven NHL games in 2015, he was sent back to the minors. Over the last three seasons, he has only played 32 games, and now struggling with injuries, has not played professional hockey at any level since January.
The Lynah Faithful will certainly miss Angello’s talents, and his departure leaves head coach Mike Schafer ’86 with a gaping hole to fill at the right wing position on the top line. But while it is very well possible that Angello may succeed at a top level like Moulson, the case of Ferlin — a more similar and more recent example — suggests that he might have been better off remaining in Cornell for one more year.