Can Okposo Bolster the Islanders Offense?
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Sunday, December 23, 2007
Through 32 games this season, the New York Islanders have scored a league-low 71 goals.
With new acquisitions Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Comrie not providing the offense needed to support the shutdown goaltending of Rick DiPietro, the Isles have been on a roller coaster ride all season and find themselves with a 15-15-2 record. An early season injury to Jon Sim and the recent suspension to enforcer Chris Simon havenít helped the lethargic Isles offense either and have forced the team to call up several different players to help anchor the bottom lines, with no clear cut answer in sight.
With the team still struggling for offense and hesitant to make a move before the leagueís holiday roster freeze, something had to be done.
Enter 2006 first-round pick Kyle Okposo.
Leaving the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, Okposo will be the latest piece inserted into the Islanders forward lines once heís finished playing in the World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic. The only question is how successful can the 19-year old be without any experience at the professional level?
Scoring 19 goals and 40 points in 40 games with the Golden Gophers last season, the Islanders seem confident that Okposo will be the sparkplug the team needs on offense.
"We're extremely excited about the possibility of Kyle joining our organization soon," general manager Garth Snow told the AP on Wednesday. "He's a great talent, one of the most exciting prospects in the game. Kyle has the dedication and character we want for our franchise."
However, despite the teamís excitement about what Okposo could bring to the team, another question remains. Islanders head coach Ted Nolan has been insistent on letting young players get their bumps and bruises in the AHL, rather than with the big club. Over the past season and a half, former first-round picks Robert Nilsson and Jeff Tambellini and current Islander defenseman Chris Campoli found it increasingly difficult to crack a lineup filled with veterans.
Can Okposo be the player that Nolan finally gives a legitimate shot at helping the team, without getting additionally seasoning in the minors? Will he be able to be the sparkplug the team needs to make the playoffs this season?
And if Nolan goes against his grain with the youngster, the question of who he will play with is also an interesting one? Considering how stagnant the offense and powerplay have been over the past nine games [seven of which the Isles have lost] does Nolan decide to give Okposo top-line minutes and time with the man advantage?
For an Islanders team desperately looking for a messiah of sorts on offense, the answer to those questions will have to wait.