An unfortunate, freak play in preseason resulted in a shoulder injury to Kyle Okposo. As a consequence of that, he was only able to play in 38 total games during the season, rejoining the team just before the halfway mark had been reached.
When he did return, he quickly found a regular spot and quite a bit of success playing with Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner. It was amazing how well he fit in with that pair, and his play making ability surely added another dynamic to the group. In fact, it really seemed as if Kyle was the perfect fit with Nielsen and Grabner, as his style of play really complimented that of his line mates.It was a bit of a “slow” start for #21, or, at least, it appeared to be that way. Of course, losing training camp time and then joining the team in mid-season was a disadvantage for him. It does take a little time for one to get his legs back and to get used to the pace of the game. It’s not to make “excuses” for Kyle, as I am admittedly a big fan of his, but, instead, those who know the game of hockey, understand how there is a degree of “rust” that has to be shaken off when one returns from along term injury to the game.
In his 38 games, Okie had 5 goals and 15 assists. Statistically, this might have been a bit less than what one would expect from Kyle, yet his impact in so many other facets of the game made his presence an important one to the resurgence of the Isles in the second half. His two-way play, his leadership and overall hard work surely was an impact as the second half progressed. Additionally, as I said above, the solidification of the Nielsen line with Okposo’s return also was a big benefit for the team.
I would have to give Kyle a B as his “grade” for his season. To me, the 5 goals is something that he needs to surely improve on next season. If you project his stats for a full season, they would have been a bit below that what would be expected of Kyle. He has an awesome wrist shot, and, to me, I see no reason why he cannot be a 25 goal scorer. Add to that his play making ability, and I believe that he will be an integral part of the Islander offense in the future.
It will be interesting to see what a full season for Kyle will bring in 2011-12. He is certainly part of the “core” group of players, and his long term signing demonstrates how the organization feels about his importance for the future of the team. I am looking forward to a “break out” season for Okposo, and I still think him to be the future captain of the team. I once wrote a post about how I felt Kyle was emerging as a potential great player for the Islanders and in the NHL, and I still stand by my earlier predictions and observations.
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