On Friday night Kyle Okposo became the second player to score four goals in a game this week when he did so against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 6-3 win. The 26-year-old’s talent is abundant and he has quickly become one of the Islanders’ top players, but for the 2006, first round-pick, his success didn’t come right out of the gate.
Okposo recorded four goals in a game just three days after Winnipeg Jets Mathieu Perreault had four in an 8-2 win against the Florida Panthers. And with another two points Saturday night in a 6-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Okposo now sits just one point behind team captain John Tavares for the team-lead in scoring.
A Rough Start
The St. Paul, MN native was selected seventh-overall by the Islanders in 2006, out of the University of Minnesota. He got his first taste at the NHL the following season, but was sent down by the Isles after nine games, after putting up just five points in those games. He spent time with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the University of Minnesota.
He made the team the following season, recording 18 goals and 39 points in 65 games in his first full season in the NHL. But after recording 40 points in 40 games during his draft year in Minnesota, Okposo struggled to translate that offence to the big leagues.
Before the 2012-13 lockout season, Okposo had 68 goals and 161 points in 271 games. During the shortened season, the right-winger had what, statistically would have been his worst season to date. He had four goals and 24 points in 48 games with the Isles. However, after his worst offensive production, Okposo entered the 2013-14 season rejuvenated and Islander fans finally got to see what the 217-pounder was made of.
Hitting His Mark
Okposo had 27 goals and 69 points in 71 games, just short of a point per game. Those totals were the two-highest marks of his career and he finished first on the team in scoring, though Tavares only played 59 games following an injury he sustained during the Winter Olympics. This season Okposo is on pace for a near identical season to last year. He is on pace for 25 goals, just slightly lower than last season’s total, and 78 points.
Islanders Also Thriving
The Islanders missed the playoffs last year after making it to the posts-season during the lockout shortened season, when they lost in six games in the first round to the Penguins. Over the past seven seasons the Islanders have finished with 79 points four times and even lower twice, with the exception being in 2012-13. This year the team has 61 points through the first 45 games and sit just a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The team is on pace for 111 points this season which would be the team’s highest finish since 1981-82 when the Islanders were in the
amidst of winning their third of four-straight Stanley Cups.
Becoming a Leader
Okposo and the Islanders are having one of their best seasons in recent years. John Tavares has been the leader of the team since he came into the league in 2009-10, tallying 359 points in 395 games. However, Okposo has become almost as important to the team as their captain. He has 253 points in 361 games and 112 points in 116 games over the past two seasons. To put that into terms, 44.3% of his career points have come in the last two seasons or 32% of his games.
It has taken Okposo a while to get going, but the flower the Islanders drafted back in 2006, seventh overall, looks to finally be blooming.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.