Friday, December 23, 2011

Milestone Goal, Isles Cold, and Strome

It is with a small sense of pride that I can announce the following: Kyle Okposo scored his 50th National Hockey League goal on Friday (12/23) night.

His wrist shot beat Toronto goaltender James Reimer's glove with 4:15 remaining in the first period of the game. Unfortunately, Kyle's Islanders found themselves trailing 3-0 at the time. While they did attempt a spirited comeback, twice narrowing Toronto's lead to one goal, they lost yet again.

As someone who has covered him since his college days, I can tell you it has been a long and sometimes uneven road for Kyle so far as an NHL player.

Fans will surely remember his very public departure from the University of Minnesota as a sophomore in 2008. However, he immediately took the American Hockey League by storm as a professional, scoring 28 points with Bridgeport in an abbreviated season.

He went on to have a solid 9 game "tryout" of sorts with the Islanders in that same whirlwind season.

"Okie," as his teammates call him, opened eyes in the following seasons, putting up solid 39 and 52 point efforts in his first two full campaigns. Fans viewed him as a star in the making; management as a core piece of the rebuild.

His career hasn't been without pitfalls, though. He missed more than half of last season due to a preseason shoulder injury. Before that there was a concussion suffered at the hands of Dion Phaneuf, also in a preseason game.

People also became concerned when he went through terrible goalless droughts, such as when he began this season without scoring for 15 games.

That said, Kyle still appears to have his best years ahead of him. He has rebounded with 6 goals in his last 15 games. He's signed long term on Long Island and seems to enjoy playing and living in Nassau County. What has been missing has been a playoff berth.

All that said, he has put up some solid numbers so far in his career, 50 goals and 79 assists in 222 games. It works out to 0.58 points per game.

Congratulations to him for reaching what is hopefully the first of many goal scoring thresholds in his career.

News and Notes:

- The Islanders' 5-3 loss to Toronto, coupled with Thursday night's 4-2 loss at Madison Square Garden to the New York Rangers leaves them at 11-16-6 on the season. With a mere 28 points earned in 33 games, they have basically fallen out of the Eastern Conference playoff race before Christmas.

- On a brighter note, beginning on Monday (12/26) you'll be able to watch top Isles prospect Ryan Strome on the NHL Network. He'll be playing on Team Canada in the IIHF 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship.

He, along with Islanders draft pick Andrey Pedan (Team Russia) will participate in the annual event that features many of the NHL's stars of the future. Prospective top 2012 draft picks Nail Yakupov (Russia) and Mikhail Grigorenko (Russia) are also expected to participate.

I'm hoping for a big tournament from Strome; hopefully a dominant one. Islanders fans could use the knowledge that a bona fide scorer is on the way to their team in the near future.

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