Kyle Okposo Deserves to Play for Team USA in Sochi
By: Matt Saidman - December 29, 2013
“There’s no question that Okposo belongs on the Olympic team. He currently sits 2nd in points among US born players, and he’s 3rd in assists as well”
Kyle Okposo has many reasons to be happy these days. He’s a top-25 scorer in the NHL, he plays alongside one of the best players in the world, and his wife is expecting their first child any day now. On top of all that, he’s hoping for one more reason to be happy on January 1st – a spot on the 2014 United States Olympic Hockey Team. The team roster will be announced on New Years Day, at the NHL’s Winter Classic.
There’s no question that Okposo belongs on the Olympic team. He currently sits 2nd in points among US born players (with a total of 37 points), and he’s 3rd in assists as well.
While it’s true that Okposo has benefited from playing on a line with John Tavares, it’s equally true that he’s earned most of the points he’s gotten. Tavares’ goals are often the result of Okposo’s hard work and grinding in the corners.
Okposo has proven to be remarkably difficult to separate from the puck, and he has also repeatedly displayed the vision needed to set up his teammates in the offensive zone.
Coach Jack Capuano, when asked about the impact playing with Tavares has had on Okposo, responded: “Obviously that line’s been good for us, but he’s a reason why that line has been good, because of his determination to make that line better.
“He’s playing physical. He’s grinding it out, he’s playing good down low, he’s puck protecting, he’s shooting pucks… The biggest difference right now is that he’s utilizing his size and he’s skating well.”
Capuano was also asked if he thinks Okposo should be considered to represent Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi: “Yeah, I do. His numbers are real good, but more importantly this is a guy that’s always been a leader everywhere he’s been. He’s a high character guy and those are the important ingredients when you’re putting a team together like the Olympic team. “
Capuano added, “For me, his play speaks for itself.”
Teammate Matt Martin, who has seen Okposo’s game grow over the last few seasons, also spoke highly of him: “He’s a big body, power forward type player. He works hard when he gets pucks deep, he hunts and he constantly tracks. He’s like a dog on a bone to get the puck back.”
Martin continued, “He can use his body to bring the puck to the net but he also has good vision to make some good plays… It doesn’t matter who he plays with. They seem to produce.“
Josh Bailey knows firsthand how effective a player Okposo can be. Bailey played with Okposo and Frans Nielsen on arguably the most effective line for the Islanders down the stretch last year.
“First off, he’s an awesome guy,“ Bailey said. “He brings a lot of great leadership to this team. I think everyone knows what type of player he is. He makes guys around him better, he’s got a great shot, great power forward. I think he holds that puck down low so well and guys can’t knock him off the puck.“
Bailey continued: “Great vision, too. I really think he brings the total package to his game and anyone who gets the chance to play with him really understands that.”
Andrew MacDonald, who shares Okposo’s title as Alternate Captain of the Islanders, spoke about Okposo’s work ethic and how he contributes even more than the huge amount his stats show: “Sometimes the stats don’t always tell the tale, but in his case it does for sure.”
MacDonald added, “The work he’s been putting in on and off the ice, he’s just doing all the right things. It’s showing and it’s paying off. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Okposo’s done everything to earn a spot on the Team USA roster. Now, it’s in the hands of General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Dan Bylsma. Hopefully he gets the chance he deserves.