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Behind The Bench: Kyle Okposo

by on 10/05/2011

Vitals

Born: St. Paul, MN, USA
Birth date: April 16, 1988
Height: 6’1” (185 cm)
Weight: 200 lbs (91 kg)
Position: Right/Left Wing
Shoots: Right
NHL Draft: 7th overall by the New York Islanders in 2006
NHL Team: New York Islanders
Jersey No.: #21
National Team: United States
NHL Contract: 15/16
Cap Hit: $2,800,000

History

Okposo was picked first overall by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the 2005 USHL Entry Draft. In his only season with the Buccaneers, Okposo tallied 27 goals and 58 points in 50 games and was named USHL Rookie of the Year for his efforts. Okposo was an offensive contributor while representing the United States at several tournaments including the U18 Junior World Cup and the Viking Cup. The following season, Okposo joined the University of Minnesota. While playing for the University of Minnesota, Okposo was switched to center through most of the season as the team had an abundance of wingers. In his rookie collegiate season, Okposo tallied 17 goals and 37 points in 33 games.

Okposo played half of the 2007-08 season with the University of Minnesota and tallied 11 points in 11 games. In mid-December, Okposo notified his teammates of his decision to leave the university and the team to start his professional career with the New York Islanders. Okposo split the second half of his second between the NHL and the AHL. In 35 AHL games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Okposo tallied 9 goals and 28 points, in 9 NHL games he tallied 2 goals and 5 points.

Okposo made the Islanders line-up out of training camp and proceeded to have a good rookie season. Okposo recorded 18 goals and 29 points in just 65 games and finished tied for eighth among all rookies in scoring and second in team scoring. Prior to the Islanders opening game of the 2009-10 season, Okposo suffered a concussion from a hard check to the head by Dion Phaneuf during an exhibition game. During the season, Okposo improved on his rookie season with a 19 goal and 52 point campaign, and finished second in scoring behind linemate John Tavares.

For the second straight preseason, Okposo suffered an injury that sidelined him. This time he suffered a torn labrum that forced him to miss half the season. Okposo returned to the Islanders line up on January 20, 2011 against the Washington Capitals in a 2-1 loss. He finished the season with a respectable 5 goals and 20 points in 38 games.

Talent Analysis

Pros

  • Strong and hard to knock off the puck
  • Protects the puck well
  • High-end stick skills
  • Battles in the corners and along the boards
  • Quick, lethal shot
  • Crashes the net
  • Finishes his checks
  • Plays with a lot of tenacity
  • Excellent skater
  • Outstanding offensive abilities
  • Game breaker talent
  • Superb work ethic

Cons

  • Durability
  • Needs to improve defensively

Future

The fourth year for any power forward is always an important year, as it typically marks the first season they put everything together and produce at a high level. In Jarome Iginla’s fourth season, he tallied 63 points in 77 games, Ryan Getzlaf produced 91 points in 81 games, while Milan Lucic put up 62 points in 79 games. Okposo is on the cusp of becoming an elite power forward in the NHL and just like the other forwards mentioned, expect his fourth year in the NHL to be a break out year.

Okposo could be paired with John Tavares and Matt Moulson on the first line this season where he’ll likely tally 30 goals and 75 points. Alternatively, Okposo could also be bumped down to the second line with Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner and potentially score 25 goals and 65-70 points. Whether he plays on the first or second line next season, Okposo is poised to produce at a higher level. After suffering a shortened season last year, one has to believe that Okposo is just itching to prove he is worth his new five-year contract extension.

I expect Okposo to become a perennial 85-95 point producer when he and Tavares reach their primes. Like Okposo, Tavares is on the cusp of becoming an elite player and when he does, the two of them together will wreak havoc on a lot of defenders and goalies. Okposo is going to create a lot of room for Tavares and Okposo will cash in on any chances Tavares creates around the net for him. The two of them together will become one of the best duos in the league.

NHL Highlights

  • Drafted 7th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft
  • 1st NHL Game Played – March 18th, 2007 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (1-3 L)
  • 1st NHL Point – March 21st, 2007 vs. New Jersey Devils (Assist)
  • 1st NHL Goal – March 21st, 2007 vs. New Jersey Devils
  • 1st NHL Assist – March 21st, 2007 vs. New Jersey Devils
  • 1st NHL Multi-point Game – March 21st, 2007 vs. New Jersey Devils (Goal and an assist)

Career Highlights

  • 2005-06 USHL Clark Cup Champion
  • 2005-06 USHL Clark Cup Playoffs MVP
  • 2005-06 USHL Rookie of the Year
  • 2005-06 USHL First All-Star Team
  • 2005-06 USHL All-Rookie Team
  • 2006-07 NCAA (WCHA) Champion
  • 2006-07 U20 WJC Bronze Medal

Career Stats

AHL: 35 GP, 9 G, 19 A, 28 Pts
NCAA:
58 GP, 26 G, 25 A, 51 Pts
NHL:
192 GP, 44 G, 72 A, 116 Pts
USHL:
50 GP, 27 G, 31 A, 58 Pts
USHL Playoffs:
11 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 Pts
WC:
15 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 Pts
WHC-17:
5 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 Pts
WJC-20:
13 GP, 1 G, 6 A, 7 Pts

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