In the 2006 entry draft, the New York Islanders drafted Kyle Okposo in the first round, 7th overall.
I had the unfortunate luck of having to play against him in college, and the privilege of playing on his team in Bridgeport, CT. The kid is a beast, and because of that, I’ve written much praise about him in the past.
But to say he’s having an off-season (er, an in-season off-season) is an understatment so far.
The Islanders took their time developing him and considered him a central part of their rebuild. When he cracked the Islanders for good in 2008-2009, you could see he was going to be a stud in the league.
He racked up 18 goals in 65 games as a rookie on a bad Islanders team that year. The next season he was one shy of 20 goals, but tallied a very respectable 53 points. Even in an injury plagued season last year he had 20 points in 35 games.
Those numbers aside, he does way more than score. He’s a strong kid who adds some grit and muscle to his stats. He takes the puck to the net, and he hounds it well when he doesn’t have it. All in all, he’s a kid you want around.
Identifying that, the Isles signed him to a 5-year, 14 million dollar contract, securing his place on the roster for many years to come, but also escalating expectations.
He’s averaging over 15 minutes of ice per game, which is maybe a little low, but it’s enough. If it’s low, it’s likely because of the lack of production. He’s gone four straight games without a point, while being a minus in every one.
The one encouraging number for him is that he’s getting some shots, totalling 24 in 13 games, but for a guy you’re taking a $2.8M cap hit for, it’s still nothing extrodinary.
Maybe the Islanders saw an off-year coming – Garth Snow certainly has his contract structured to show expected improvement – he only earns $1M this year, but then it’s $2M the next, $3M the one after, then $3.5 and $4.5.
I suspect he’ll be fine and turn this thing around – the good news is, he’s not useless when he’s not producing, unlike some of other offensive players.
He’s too hungry a player, and too talented for this to go on much longer.
No doubt the always-thin Islanders, who need their best players at their best, are checking their watches, counting down time, and praying he gets it figured out before another season disappears.