Tonight marks the first time the New York Islanders will welcome in Kyle Okposo as an opponent, after the winger signed with the Buffalo Sabres in the offseason to a whopping seven-year, $56MM deal. After parts of nine seasons with the Islanders, the team couldn’t afford (or didn’t want to pay for) his services any longer and let him find a huge payday somewhere else.
Okposo was drafted by the Islanders seventh overall in 2006, right after Derick Brassard and just before Peter Mueller. The team had whiffed the previous two years (though they didn’t know it yet) with Ryan O’Marra (15th overall 2005) and Petteri Nokelainen (16th overall 2004) and needed a good young player after a very disappointing season. Okposo was the third USA-born player taken in the draft after Erik Johnson and Phil Kessel both went in the top five. It would turn out to be one of the strongest drafts ever for American players, with no less than nine going in the first round.
Despite knowing the Okposo would be headed to the University of Minnesota, the Islanders couldn’t pass up the skilled offensive forward. Within two years he was playing in the NHL, and would never look back.
While many still don’t see Okposo as a star, he’s provided solid production for the better part of a decade and has accumulated some numbers that shouldn’t be dismissed, even for a franchise with such a storied history.
With 369 points, Okposo ranks 14th all-time in Islanders history, despite being down at 24th on the games played list. He ranks in the top-15 in game winning goals, and has done all of it before his 30th birthday. While it’s obvious he’s not in the same category as Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin or the other Islanders legends, he does deserve some recognition for what he’s accomplished for the franchise.
That’s what the Islanders did tonight as they honored him before the game. With a standing ovation, the crowd showed him what he meant to them, and how much they missed him now that he’s gone (the Islanders are desperate for some scoring off the wing). Islanders fans, where do you think Okposo fits into your franchise history? Tell us below.