If we're finishing this thing, we're finishing this thing: Yesterday in our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 post (poll taken in May, pre-draft), we had Michael Grabner ranked at #4. If you've been following along, hopefully you realize that means Kyle Okposo comes in at #3. (The top two names on the list should be indisputable.)
Truth be told, among our seven voters it averaged to a dead heat between the two 24-year-old wingers. How they further define themselves as players will go a long way to defining how well this whole rebuild thing turns out. Each signing five-year contracts as RFA's a summer ago, they've been anointed to "the core."
The core of what? That's up to them. Neither will be eligible for this list, thanks to age, come this time next year (Grabner, who turns 25 in October, is six months older than Okposo).
And what, pray tell, does Kyle Okposo bring? That depends on whether you see his 24 goals at age 23 as a Blake Comeau on-waivers-eve kind of 24 goals or a John Tavares on-stardom's-eve kind of 24 goals.
The surge to 24 at the end of 2011-12 certainly had a "March Blake Comeau" quality to it, minus the extraneous zone orbits. The overall 15.8% shooting percentage was the highest of Okposo's career and quite a bit higher than his rate the last two seasons (7.6% and 6.9%, respectively). That went along with a total of just 152 shots on goal, the lowest full-season figure of Okposo's still-young career.
But there is a big wild card to this equation: Okposo saw some of his production next to John Tavares when he and P.A. Parenteau swapped lines. Parenteau, you may have heard, is now gone. Okposo, like Brad Boyes, is a candidate to replace Parenteau on that line if not on the powerplay.
He only had three powerplay goals last season anyway. Is Okposo a candidate to hit 20 goals again? And can he review more movies? Yesterday I argued that Grabner is a pretty well defined quantity at this point, despite the 14-goal difference in his past two seasons. As for Okposo? This year is huge, as it probably determines what kind of line he's on for the rest of his contract.
How We Voted
The voting was pretty well aligned here, and though there are small differences it's no surprise that the top five on our under-25 list are ultimately pros with multiple seasons of NHL experience.
Which should make polls over the next year interesting: Not only will Grabner and Okposo graduate, but a new crop of hoped-for future "core" members is about to mature.
Related Links You'll See with Each 25U25 Post
May 2012 25U25 Panelists: CanadianIslesLifer making a return appearance, as well as most of the authors at LHH.
Note: For those LHH readers who sent their own selections in, JPinVA has them summarized in this FanPost. That one will be fun to measure against our panelists' results.
You can see which other prospects just missed our top 25 in this preview post.
To reflect the variety of ways you can place value on prospects with uncertain futures, we brought a range of philosophies to this poll, which ranks all Islanders (prospect or pro) under age 25: Some voters valued present talent/maturity more, some valued future potential more. All are averaged with the intent of capturing a moment in time in the evolution of the Islanders prospect pipeline.