13 August 2010
Kyle Okposo starts his third full NHL Season at the tender age of 22. Although he may be young and rather inexperienced, he just might be the most important player on the Islanders roster. The seventh overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft has drawn comparisons to a young Jarome Iginla, in both his mixed heritage and his playing style. Islanders GM Garth Snow continues to look for scoring options to support his young forwards like Okposo, the young wingers development this year could put him into star player territory.
It took Jarome Iginla until his fifth NHL season to crack the thirty goal/seventy point plateau, and in his sixth season he broke though with over fifty goals and ninety points. The Islanders can’t afford to wait that long for Kyle to develop. Okposo’s ceiling may be lower than Iginla’s, but a thirty goal and sixty-five point seasons should be reasonable expectations for the 2010-2011 season. While Okposo’s scoring climbed from thirty-nine points to fifty-two, his goal total only rose by one, from eighteen to nineteen. The spike in assists could be due to playing with a better supporting cast, with the John Tavares/Matt Moulson combination and the developing Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau, but the goal total was disappointing. On the power play, his goal total went from nine to four, while his assists on the PP rose from four to eighteen. It could just be that KO is a better set-up man than a scorer; bust when you see him shoot the puck, you know he can score more. Another troubling statistic was his minus twenty-two, compared to his minus six the previous season. The 2009-2010 Isles were a terrible defensive team, something Garth Snow has addressed in the offseason. This should be the last time we see Kyle that far in the red.
Beyond the stats, there were times where Kyle seemed frustrated on the ice with his own play and with his teams play. Just by watching him, you can tell he cares about winning and losing beyond his own stats. His play on the defensive side of the game has improved, even despite his minus twenty-two. Coach Scott Gordon has entrusted him as one of the teams top penalty killers. Many have talked about Kyle as a potential captain for the franchise after Doug Weight moves on. With his combination of skills, intangibles and passion, he could be the perfect leader for a young Islanders club.
Year two wasn’t the season the Islanders, their fans and Kyle himself had hoped for. Moving forward, with the maturation of John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Rob Schremp and the rest of the Islanders young core, Kyle should continue to develop his offensive game. When the trio of Tavares, Bailey and Okposo were teamed together on a line, there seemed to be instant chemistry between the neophytes. After an offseason of work and growth, that trio could become a real force for other teams defenses to deal with, led by the young winger from Minnesota.
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