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Isles' Okposo ready to take the next step

Friday, 09.10.2010 / 12:27 PM ET / News
By John Kreiser  - NHL.com Columnist
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Isles\' Okposo ready to take the next step
SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Kyle Okposo hasn't been on Long Island forever. It only seems that way.

Okposo, the Isles' first pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, is beginning his third full NHL season at age 22. But on a team that's got a large contingent of kids, Okposo is among the older Islanders in point of service with the team.

"It feels a little different," he told NHL.com after a workout Thursday at Iceworks, where Okposo and many of his teammates are skating prior to the opening of training camp next week. "I know what to expect. I know the League pretty much, and the players. That's a big thing for us, especially because we're such a young group."

Okposo isn't exactly a grizzled veteran. But he says he's learned a lot in his two-plus seasons since joining the Islanders after leaving the University of Minnesota.

"You know how certain players play," Okposo said when asked what he's learned from the time he entered the League until now. "It's also another year of chemistry for our team, and I think that helps quite a bit – just knowing how each other play. I've pretty much played with everyone now, and the chemistry definitely helps."

Okposo went from 18 goals and 39 points as a rookie in 2008-09 to 19 and 52 last season, though he also finished at minus-22. But he suffered through a couple of lengthy goal droughts – including an 18-gamer in November and December, and has spent a lot of the off-season working on his shot. He's got a powerful wrister, but has yet to turn into the sniper that drew comparisons to Jarome Iginla when he was drafted.

But while Okposo admits to having personal goals for the new season, he's not willing to put a number on what he feels his final scoring numbers should be.

"I have some expectations in the back of my mind," he conceded, but quickly added "no" when asked if he had any definite offensive numbers in mind.

One thing he did cite as a personal goal for 2010-11 was consistency, and said improving his off-season workouts should help.

"I think I've prepared a lot better than I did last summer," Okposo said. "I feel great, and I'm going to keep working so I feel great every game and have plenty of jump."

Despite his tender age, Okposo already wears an "A" and is regarded by many as captain material when 39-year-old Doug Weight calls it a career. For now, though, he's downplaying that part of his game.

"I think we need everybody to step up this year and be leaders, not just certain guys, he said. "Dougie is going to handle a lot of that; he's great about that, especially with us young guys. I'm going to do what I can and lead by how I play."

The Islanders were among the NHL's most improved teams last season. But their 18-point jump from 61 to 79 points still left them on the outside looking in when the playoffs started – the third year in a row that the Isles went home after the regular season.  GM Garth Snow eschewed any high-profile signings, but did bring in a pair of useful defensemen, Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina, as well as forwards PA Parenteau and Zenon Konopka. He also landed top-four defenseman James Wisniewski in a deal with Anaheim.

Snow's moves didn't make the kind of splash that some other teams' signings did, but Okposo said the additions should lead to further improvement this season.

"I think we picked up some good free agents that will definitely help our team," he said. Also, everyone has another year under their belt. I think it should be a good year."

One player Okposo definitely thinks will have a good year is center John Tavares. The 2009 No. 1 draft pick led the Isles in points as a rookie with 54 and was second with 24 goals. Okposo feels Tavares, a sometimes linemate, is ready for even bigger things in his second NHL season.

"He's a special player," Okposo said. "I'm sure he's had a good summer of training and he'll come in ready to go and know more what to expect. That's going to help him a lot."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 46 17 19 -4 36
K. Okposo 47 12 24 -9 36
B. Nelson 49 20 11 1 31
F. Nielsen 49 15 16 -2 31
M. Grabovski 49 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 48 8 15 5 23
A. Lee 49 7 14 1 21
N. Leddy 49 3 16 -12 19
R. Strome 38 5 13 -6 18
N. Kulemin 49 5 9 6 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 12 10 4 .921 2.18
T. Greiss 13 6 2 .927 2.32
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