What a difference a couple of years makes for Okposo.
After starting his career with 18 and 19 goals respectively in his first two full seasons, Kyle’s game started to slip a bit. Two years ago he was in a major funk, struggling so badly through 14 games that coach Jack Capuano decided to sit him. He was a spectator for three straight games after starting the season with 0 goals, 3 assists and a -7 rating. Eventually things turned for the young forward and his production improved towards the end of that year. He would end up scoring 9 goals in the last 9 games, finishing with 24 and 45 points.
Fast forward to last season and something similar happened. Okposo again started slowly, but would emerge as a key contributor to a team that, against all odds, made the playoffs. He finished with 24 points and played all 48 games.
This season it seems to have finally all come together for Kyle Okposo.
USA Head Coach, Dan Bylsma has noticed it, as well. He recently stated that Kyle is one of a group of about 6 or 7 that they will be watching as the roster decision nears on Dec. 31st.
Okposo could not have picked a better time to get hot. He has points in 6 consecutive games, as well as points in 11 of his last 14 contests.
Obviously, he wants to help the Islanders first and foremost, but being an Olympian is definitely something special:
"Aside from winning a Stanley Cup, winning a gold medal for your country is about as great an accomplishment as you can have in this game […] I know what will get me there is how I play with the Islanders, so this is my focus."
Okposo brings more than just his talent to the New York Islanders. He brings character. There is a very good reason that Kyle Okposo wears that A on his sweater. He goes out there every night and gives it his all.
Every NHL team could use the grit he brings to the game. People talk about passion and how certain players exhibit it. You won’t see many players as pumped as Okposo was when he scored the last 2 goals against the Wild on Sunday night. The Minnesota native, playing in front of family and friends, had 3 points including the last 2 goals, 1 being the game winner, as the Isles came back from 3 goals down for the first time in nearly 20 years.
People seem to forget that Kyle is just 25 years old.
Because he was selected at the beginning of the Islanders rebuild in 2006, it feels like Kyle Okposo has been here forever. He was selected7th overall in the very deep 2006 NHL Draft. Looking back, the only other place he may have been a great fit is Columbus, who picked one selection earlier. But, instead they picked Derick Brassard whom they have since traded. The Isles were lucky to have the opportunity to select Okposo, and boy has it paid off.
Okposo has already exceeded his point total from last year, and is on pace to demolish his previous career highs. There are other players, like Derek Stepan, which Team USA may consider. But with the fire in his heart and the way he has has been playing, Kyle Okposo is the better choice. He could get in on heart alone and make the squad better.
Derek Stepan is a good player, but cannot provide ignite a team as well as Kyle can and will. If it does come down to a choice between those two, let’s just hope that Team USA GM David Poile and Coach Dan Bylsma look at the statistics for the last month. In December, Kyle has 8 goals. Derek Stepan has 2. Case closed.
How’s this for a dream scenario? It’s the Gold Medal game, USA vs Canada. The game is tied at 2 on goals from John Tavares (Canada) and Kyle Okposo (USA). With under 30 seconds left, Okposo takes the draw and rips it past the goalie.
Team USA wins the Gold as John Tavares and Canada look stunned. Both players come back to the Isles and have a bond like never before, they click instantly and lead the team on a miracle run to get to the playoffs.
Once there, they single-handedly lead the team to its first Stanley Cup since 1980, shocking the hockey world and joining Ken Morrow as the only Islanders to win a Gold Medal and a Stanley Cup in the same year.
And, just think, it never would have happened if Okposo didn’t earn his way onto the Olympic team.