Mine eyes are on Vancouver 2010 -- as are the eyes of the American braintrust, who met in Florida last week and discussed roster options ...
The problem for the Americans is that their most skilled forwards, Patrick Kane and Zach Parise most notably, and their most offensively skilled defenseman Rafalski, are all smaller players. This tournament will be played on an NHL rink, meaning it could be more physical because there will be less open ice.
>>Kevin Allen, USA Today
... Enter Kyle Okposo. I'm by no means the first Islanders fan to dream it, but with Okposo's steadily improving play and ridiculous work rate, you can start to see a realistic scenario where Okposo enters the picture for Team USA in 2010.
If the Americans need size, he's got his share -- and while he doesn't (yet?) throw his body around like an assassin, he does not shy from contact. More importantly, he's become harder and harder for backcheckers and defensemen to knock off the puck. Add that he will reportedly have an opportunity on the international stage's World Championships this spring, and I can see the happy-go-lucky 20-year-old (21 in April) in red-white-and-blue.
Allen doesn't mention Okposo by name. In fact, he cites Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and San Jose's Joe Pavelski -- both who have had more impressive seasons on better teams -- as examples of young American blood under consideration.
|2008 - Kyle Okposo||57||16||14||30||-8||28||7||0||3||0||139||11.5|
|2008 - Bobby Ryan||51||23||20||43||13||22||8||0||2||0||131||17.6|
|2008 - Joe Pavelski||66||20||28||48||8||36||4||3||1||1||215||9.3|
Just a deranged Islanders' fan's idle dreaming? Maybe so. But before this season's breakthrough, you'd be silly to suggest Bobby Ryan would have such a candidacy. Things change quickly in the NHL's new Youth Is King growth curve.
One thing going against Okopso's chances, per Allen: "[Brian] Burke wants an eighth defenseman instead of a 13th forward."
Yet in his favor: versatility. He's logging major minutes in all three phases for this Islanders squad, and he's been Mark Streit's capable power play partner on the point in the absence of Doug Weight.
No matter how the numbers shake out, Okposo, the Islanders leading goalscorer -- and apparently the NHL rookie leader in takeaways -- has the rest of this season and the Worlds to keep improving his stock.