Scouting Report: Kyle Okposo
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Since being drafted by the Islanders in the first round of the 2006 entry draft, Kyle Okposo has marveled fans and media alike. Possessing a howitzer of a shot and a gritty, blue-collar temperament on the ice, Okposo looked to have a bright future developing with the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota. However, the 19-year-old shocked the hockey world and decided to leave the college hockey ranks, joining the Islanders AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers instead.
While many originally questioned the move at first, Okposo has been solid with his new team, scoring 21 points in 24 games, proving heís ready for professional hockey. Nevertheless, most Islander fans and hockey fans in general still donít know what to expect when the young Nigerian-American eventually hits the ice in the NHL.
Chatting over the phone with Minnesota hockey writer Ross Bernstein, who has written several books on hockey in Minnesota and has followed the young career of Okposo, discussed the youngster and tells NY Sports Day what to expect from him in the future.
New York Sports Day: What really stands out about Kyle Okposo?
Ross Bernstein: Heís like a pond hockey kid in the fact that heís really polished, but still raw. Heís not scared to try a lot of stuff on the ice, either. During his time in Minnesota, he scored a ton of filthy-looking highlight reel goals. Heís also not scared to mix it up when he has to and he plays with a chip on his shoulder every night.
NYSD: Why do you think he left the Gophers to join the Sound Tigers?
Bernstein: I think they put some pressure on him to sign. Originally, I thought that after the whole Chris Simon ordeal earlier in the season that theyíd call him up, because they were really struggling and they needed a lift. But then they sent him to Bridgeport and I donít understand why.
NYSD: Why donít you understand it?
Bernstein: Putting him the AHL is going to be tough for him. The American College Hockey scene is very different from the AHL. American college kids play the sport differently and the AHL is filled with young Canadian players that donít have a career to fall back on, like many of the Americans do. They play the game much tougher and will do whatever it takes to stay on the ice. Some of them will even become fighters just to stay in the lineup. Itís kind of like putting a bullís-eye on his back. In Minnesota, he would have been wearing a facemask and it would have been a much safer place for him to develop.
NYSD: If you could, is there any player at the NHL level that you could compare Okposo to?
Bernstein: It may sound a bit clichť because heís African-American, but I really see a lot of Jarome Iginla in him. Heís big, strong, has a great shot, can be a playmaker if he has to and isnít afraid to get into anyoneís face. He plays with a lot of heart, works really hard out there and is a natural leader.
NYSD: What else can we expect from him?
Bernstein: He has the whole package. Heís charismatic, intelligent and looks like an Adonis. When you think about how talented he is and that heís a young African-American and this is hockey, itís easy to see that the marketing campaigns and sponsorships can be tremendous. He could also really help the Islanders. Theyíve been dying for a star for quite some time and itís definitely a role he can fill if they give him an opportunity.