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Top 25 Islanders Under 25: Scratch that, Kyle Okposo at #4

I swear we didn't plan it like this -- Who expected Kyle Okposo to receive two healthy scratches in mid-November? -- but it lends great perspective when it works out this way.

In our poll taken before training camp in September, Okposo averaged out to 4th on our list of the top New York Islanders properties under age 25. Having completed the first three seasons of his career with a few frustrating injuries but a whole lot of relentless three-zone play, he was seen as an important piece, regardless of whether his goalscoring potential ever approaches 30 or plateaus closer to 20.

One of the oft-heard reality checks about Okposo is "he's not a sniper," but I'm not sure how many people ever actually thought that was the case. He is attractive for that motor, that all-around play, and strong hockey skills that should get him shots and make him at least a 20 goal scorer, which is quite dandy assuming the other parts of his game hold up.

Thus far this season they haven't, which is how the alternate captain ended up scratched for both games this week. But I wouldn't bet on that lasting.

In truth, the more disappointing part of Okposo's game in terms of falling short of expectations is his lack of physicality. One tends to assume a 210-lb. or more forward who engages as much as he does will also throw that weight around, stick up more for teammates, and be a general menace (particularly if the forward in question is not a sniper). That doesn't appear to be part of Okposo's game.


About the Scoring/Shooting Percentage

Okposo's highest scoring NHL season was 2009-10, when Scott Gordon used him like a mule in all situations and he notched just four powerplay goals among his 19. The year before he'd compiled nine PP goals out of 18 total. Okposo is not going to be a go-to powerplay shooter for the Islanders, so those opportunities aren't likely to return. But could he be expected to put up, say a 9% shooting percentage rather than the 7.1 he's averaged since 2009-10?

Or is it even fair to ask, or predict, when that period was interrupted by the shoulder injury that limited him to 38 games last year and could affect his ability to unleash shots even still?

(For the record, since the shoulder surgery he's put up five goals on 97 shots, for a 5.15 shooting percentage that really doesn't tell us much. If he had two less posts and two more goals in that time, the percentage would be up to 7.2. Add two more and you're up to 9.2.)

Kyle Okposo GP G Sh Sh% TOI
2007-08 AHL 35 9 76 11.8 n/a
2008-09 NHL 65 18 165 10.9 18:01
2009-10 NHL 80 19 249 7.6 20:32
2010-11 NHL 38 5 72 6.9 16:35

An oft-overlooked but very simple variable when looking at players' raw scoring numbers is the question of their powerplay time. Okposo hasn't gotten much of it -- not that he should -- and when he has it's been on the point.

Opportunity may not ever arrive for him to be more than a 20-goal scorer. Injury might even hold that back. But that's not as important as getting the all-around performance that fans came to expect from the now 23-year-old member of "the core."

That player is coming back, right?


How We Voted in September

Top 25 Under 25 mikb M11 CIL Dom KQ Web/Mark
Kyle Okposo
4 3

(Yikes! Turns out I'm the reason he ranked as high as he did. Although to be fair, the vote tallies between #3 and #7 were razor thin.)

For this first edition, we polled LHH authors Keith, WebBard (Mark D), mikb, myself, and two particularly prospect-focused LHH regulars, CanadianIslesLifer and MatthewM11. We wanted enough to get a decent number of voters but not so much that we make the first run unwieldy. It is absolutely unscientific but with varied enough votes to get us thinking about who are the best hockey players now, balanced with who has the best potential/value long-term.


Previous Posts in This Top 25 Islanders Under 25 Series

The Top 25 under 25 is an idea conceived by Oilers blog Copper & Blue and copied elsewhere, incorporated here by popular demand. We cut it off at players who were under 25 going into this season, so Andrew MacDonald, having just turned 25 this month, barely misses eligibility.