Some people have seemed to under appreciate and even undervalue “23yrs old proven top 6 checking forward” Kyle Okposo’s offensive prowess and overall game from my view lately. So I just wanted to set the record straight. And honestly, if it comes down to it, Okposo could fill in for 75%-90% of PAP’s production if throw into the PAP role from where he is now.
I still think PAP is a top 60/50 playmaking forward in the NHL though, I just don't believe losing him would hurt as a lot of people make it out to be. And I think that may be because people underestimate or undervalue what Okposo is and has done so far:
Okposo is proved already that he is a good and capable top 6 checking forward, okposo’s defensive abilities/game are solid, but I think people truly undervalue his offensive abilities. He's been used as a checker and sub-50% o-zone start forward his whole career till this year, and even this year with PAP's promotion back to the 1st line he won't finish with above 50% o-zone starts unless PAP is traded or hurt(knock on wood).
In Okposo's 1st full season at the age of 21, and against top 6 pairing competition, he netted 19goals and 52pts while getting top unit PP mins and middle of the team o-zone starts(not being used as an offensive forward at 5-on-5) and while struggling with his shooting percentage. And this is the year where Okposo finished 2nd on the team in scoring, while splitting half the season with JT/MM both in their rookie years, and Bailey/Nielsen. So it's not like he was playing with young JT/MM full time, but he was also used defensively with Nielsen/Bailey. Pretty impressive if you ask me, even more so when Okposo came out heavily on top in corsi stats that year.
After that, the shoulder injury slowed his development, but none the less young Okposo still seemed to be able to put up good corsi numbers and solid offensive stats for a guy that has been used in a checking role and in 2nd PP unit ice time. Struggling with his shot last season and early this season, and he was still a full-season simulated 40pts+ guy last year and a 45pts+ guy this year. Not bad for a "checking" forward, especially given the circumstances and “rehab” from the injury.
And let’s not forget, Okposo was a 7th overall pick for a reason. He is a 2-way forward with solid offensive upside. I know juniors/college isn’t the NHL, but he has been a solid goalscorer and pt producer in all the non-professional hockey leagues he’s been. In high school he potted 47goals in his final season there, in his rookie USHL year he netted 27goals, and in his rookie college year he netted 19goals, good enough for almost 1goal every 2gms. In non-professional hockey, Okposo has been a guy that’s scored around a goal every 2gms, nhl equivalent of a 40goal scorer (which I don’t think he is). So he certainly has goalscoring potential, just likely 20-25goal/yr potential, not elite goalscoring potential. Even this year, his shooting percentage is up and without top line o-zone faceoffs and while only playing a chunk of games on the JT line and on a minimally producing 2nd unit PP he is on the verge of a 19goal season. Pretty impressive given the criticism he’s face, 15game/18% of the season goalless slump to start the season, and situation he’s been playing/used in thus far.
Maybe I just have a lot more faith in Okposo filling PAP’s role out well offensively(not completely) and that we can fill in Okposo's checking line role from within soon(nelson/cizikas/ullstrom maybe). But given numbers and age, I feel I am thinking pretty logical now and damage control if PAP is gone is far from a disaster. I really think people overestimate his loss. Would losing a player like PAP hurt? Yes, but not nearly as much as his numbers this year would suggest. And that's the reason I made a giant fanpost on the subject. And all this is because Okposo is a lot better of a player than people give him credit for, especially given what he’s done and proven at such a young age already.
Even though it might not look like it at point blank or “with the eye test” some people use, advanced stats and running numbers says Okposo can fill-in on the PAP role extremely well, especially given the proof I listed in the PAP fanpost I put up. Okposo can truly fill-in for PAP very well in his role, and finding another checker to fill-in for Okposo and deeper if we have other within-team upgrades isn’t something that hard to do. And without even equating Nino’s or Strome’s or any other rookie’s offensive prowess added to the equation, we should be pretty well off damage control wise if PAP is traded or lost at free agency. So please, don’t under appreciate what we have in Okposo. He may not be as shiny as Moulson or JT or Grabner, but he is still a solid top 6 forward, and young offensively and defensively capable one at that.