Okposo Looks to Continue to KO the Competiton
Throughout the first five full NHL seasons of Kyle Okposo’s career, he has been mired in mediocrity. He was a young player on a rebuilding team, but never seemed to take the next step in being a difference maker. Okposo was a 2nd and 3rd line player that that suffered with the dreaded label of being consistently inconsistent. The inconsistency seemed to come to a head early in the 2011-12 season, when Okposo was a healthy scratch for 3 straight games in November, after not scoring in the first month and a half of the season. He responded well from the benching by scoring 20 goals that season for the first and only time.
Kyle did not carry over the good vibes to the next season, however, as he only accumulated 4 goals and 24 points in the lockout shortened season of 2012-13. Even with the poor numbers, something happened that has seemed to click in Okposo’s game toward the end of last year’s regular season; some may say teaming him Frans Nielsen or putting Kyle on the top line with John Tavares to start this season. These are both good reasons, but it appears that the number one reason for the transformation of KO happened on the night of May 3rd, 2013 in Pittsburgh.(flickr/Official New York Islanders)
On that evening Okposo took exception to a check that Matt Niskanen finished on Matt Mouslon in the neutral zone during the 2nd period of Game 2 of Kyle’s first NHL playoff series. He immediately came to his line mate’s aide and dropped the gloves with Niskanen, eventually sending the Penguin defensemen back to the Pittsburgh locker room with blood gushing down the side of his face.
Not only did Okposo win his first ever scrap in his professional hockey career that night, he would win the game a period later and tie the series up. This night has done something for Kyle Okposo’s career and ever since then he has been a force to be reckoned with.
“A force to be reckoned with” are strong words and they may be putting pressure on a player to perform at a certain level, but pressure is something that Okposo has been dealing with a lot lately.
The 25 year old Minnesota native was highly touted going into the 2006 NHL Entry Draft with many scouts drooling over the way he plays on both ends of the ice, how strong he is with the puck, his decision making skills and how he gets after it in the dirty areas, all of which all of which seem to have come to fruition throughout the first month of this season.
Currently Okposo has been put front and center by playing on a line with two world class hockey players that can not only make plays but score as well, in Tavares and newly acquired Thomas Vanek. Kyle has been criticized for years, some even didn’t like that he was on the top line to start the year stating that he should be on a “short leash”, but it is finally time to give number 21 some due. Coach Capuano has stuck with Okposo and his decision is paying off ten fold.
Kyle has always referenced his favorite player, Peter Forsberg, as the man he tries to model his game after and if Okposo can continue his hot streak he should be considered one of the top all-around wingers in the National Hockey League, just like Forsberg in his day. He is currently 6th in the in points and tied for 3rd in assists in the league through just a month of play.
Being able to represent your country is an honor that very few people are able to achieve. To represent the USA in Sochi, Russia this winter is something that KO has been working hard at, unfortunately it looks like he has done too little too late, but being right on the cusp means that he is one or two injuries away from an Olympic appearance on behalf of his country.(flickr/Official New York Islanders)
The current pace will be tough for Okposo to continue, but don’t count this guy out. He seems to have been counted out and passed over his entire tenure in the NHL, but with the current status of the team in the standings and the prospect of being a part of the 2014 USA Olympic team in February he will be motivated to continue his torrid beginning.