Will Kyle Okposo Solve The Islanders Scoring Issues?
Kyle Okposo went into the 2012 season looking to rebound after an injured 2011 year that only saw him play 38 games. In those games, Okposo only posted 20 points, a far cry from the 52 he scored in his sophomore season. (Photo Credit: bridgetds/Flickr)
It was also likely less than what he, his team and fans were hoping to see him contribute after having such a great year in 2010.
Last year started off very similarly to 2011 - as if he was still injured and watching from the press box. He only scored three points in the first 15 games of the year and was eventually a healthy scratch for three straight games.
But Okposo would redeem himself, having heard the message from Coach Capuano loud and clear. In his second game back from being benched, KO had a three point night against the Philadelphia Flyers, scoring two goals and one assist. All three points came in the first period that ended up in an 4-3 OT loss. They were also his first two goals of the year.
His work ethic would continue to inspire the coaching staff, eventually earning him some time on the top line with Matt Moulson and John Tavares. Okposo added a physical edge that could dig along the walls and established a large presence in front of the net that provided space for his line-mates while also generating his own scoring chances.
Eventually, Okposo was moved back to the second line with P.A. Parenteau resuming his duties with Moulson and Tavares. But Okposo would continue to keep his stride, having an excellent month of March by tallying eight goals and five assists for 13 points in 15 games. His production would transition into the month of April, posting three goals in the last four games of the year.
In fact, despite the terrible start to the season, Okposo would end the year with career highs in goals with 24, eclipsing the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career. His 45 points ranked second best in his career as well.
Okposo's ability to turn his season around and keep his head up after a slow start that had him watching from the sidelines illustrated his character and desire to be a factor in the New York Islanders success going forward. His time spent on the top line wasn't a mistake either, as he never looked out of place and proved that he can keep up with the Islanders' top goal scorers if given the chance.
With P.A. Parenteau far off in Colorado, he will likely have another opportunity to play on the top unit again. However, if this is where he is to start, he will have to begin scoring from the first drop of the puck and not 15 games later. Players like Brad Boyes or Josh Bailey will be salivating at the opportunity to play wing on the first line and will likely give Okposo plenty of competition in training camp.
Either way, it almost goes without saying that Okposo needs to have at least a 50 point season in 2013 if the Islanders are going to win hockey games, regardless of what line he is on. In order to do that, he will have to define what made him successful in the second half of last season and continue that type of play as soon as October rolls around.
That is, of course, if the local arenas will still have frozen ice in their buildings.