Fantasy Island - Kyle Okposo
I know many of you are riding an emotional rollercoaster courtesy of two small groups of inconsiderate, but very rich folks who don't know how to play nice together. Not too long ago, the NHL owners made what on the surface seemed like a very promising offer to the players, something that might get things rolling again. All of my hockey buddies were so positive and it seemed as if everyone at work was talking about NHL hockey games being imminent. Then last Thursday, the ever-charming Gary Bettman said he was "very discouraged" with talks after meeting with the NHLPA. Previously soaring fans spirits, crashed harder than Enron stock prices in 2001. Unfortunately, this should be expected during these difficult negotiations and we fans need to temper our enthusiasm.
Personally, I think the key to surviving another lockout is a state of mind. Don't waste time lamenting over the fact that we should be witnessing outrageous goals, saves and punishing hits. Sadly, we are stuck with watching news clips of Daly, Bettman and the Fehr Brothers trade rhetoric in the media attempting to win the public relations war instead of simply focusing on reaching an agreeable compromise.
Following the lockout news on a daily basis any deeper than simply reading the headlines is akin to torture and I don't subscribe to it. I choose to not think about a shortened season or the possibility of not having a season at all. I prefer to think of this as an extended off-season or a very long pre-season if you will and view it as an opportunity to perfect my draft list or player rankings (for trading purposes, if your draft is already in the books). The bottom line is that you must have something to distract you until the two sides come to their senses and hash out an agreement or you'll surely go crazy!
Back on point. This week's article.
When the Islanders let P.A. Parenteau walk, they knew that they were taking a risk. Last year, Parenteau played over 60 per cent of his even strength shifts with John Tavares. As well, the two teamed up for more than 80 per cent of the superstar's power play shifts.
Taking away Tavares' security blanket was a risky move, unless the Isles thought that there was someone who could step in and play with JT. Last season, Kyle Okposo played 36.56 per cent of his regular strength shifts with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. For comparison, Tavares spent 52.56 per cent of his regular strength ice-time on a line with Parenteau and Moulson.
Looking at those numbers, it seems rather obvious that Kyle Okposo will at least get a long look at playing full-time on the right side of the top line. That ice-time could very well spill over onto the power play. Last season, Parenteau averaged 2:56 with the man advantage, while Okposo garnered the sixth most power play time averaging 1:40 per contest.
2011-12 was a very inconsistent year for Okposo. He started the season very cold, registering a meager six points in 19 games, but from December 29 to February 11, Okposo recorded 17 points while hitting the scoresheet in 15 of 20 matches. He also closed the campaign on a tear, ripping nine goals and 10 points in his final nine games.
So the signs are there for the 24-year-old forward. Will he take advantage of this opportunity and step up his game whenever they finally start the season? I'd venture that he will record new highs in both goals (24) and points (52). He needs to even out his production and it seems as though the stars are aligning for Okposo to get his shot this season. All that's left is for him is to make it happen.
Sure the team brought in 30-year-old Brad Boyes, who can play on the right side, but last season he spent the vast majority of his time languishing outside of the top six in Buffalo. There is definitely a chance that if Okposo starts as slowly as he did last year, that Boyes or even Ryan Strome could get a shot beside Tavares on the top line, but look for KO to knockout his competition.
I'm not convinced that budding star Ryan Strome is ready for the NHL quite yet. At only 19 years of age, the Islanders are in no hurry to get him to the show. The team tried to rush Josh Bailey and more recently Nino Niederreiter into big league duty with poor results. They will likely be a little gun shy to promote Strome before he is ready.
For those of you thinking of defensemen Travis Hamonic or Matt Donovan as sleeper picks, postpone those thoughts at least one more year. With the NHL upholding the trade of Lubomir Visnovsky to the Islanders, there is no way either of them will beat out Mark Streit or the Lube for power play ice-time. Sure maybe on the second unit, but even that time will be abbreviated as Visnovsky and Streit have typically hogged as much power play ice-time as the coach feeds them. Over their past three seasons, both veteran defensemen have finished atop of their respective team's power play ice-time food chains, leaving only scraps for the rest of the blueline corps.
Three New York Islanders won the Calder trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 1974, 1976 and 1978. Two years later, the team won their first of four consecutive Stanley Cups. Who were those three rookies?
Interestingly enough, layered between those three Isles, were two Atlanta Flames.
Also by Miller: