Donning jersey No. 21, Kyle Okposo
took to the ice at Islanders Iceworks in Syosset, Monday afternoon, signifying his first step onto the NHL scene.
Today, Okposo joined his fourth team of the season after playing for the University of Minnesota to begin the 2007-08 campaign and representing the United States at the World Junior Championship. While in the Czech Republic, Okposo signed with the Islanders, and next suited up for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, where he recorded 24 points in 29 games. His final destination…Long Island.
"It feels pretty good being out there in my first NHL practice," said Okposo, following today's practice. "Knowing a few guys (from Bridgeport) I felt a little more comfortable today. The guys have been awesome and have taken me under their wing. The guys have been great."
Wearing an orange jersey, Okposo skated on a line with Richard Park and Blake Comeau, fitting in seamlessly with his older counterparts. Comeau, at 22, is the closest in age to 19-year old Okposo. But the age discrepancy was hardly noticeable as the talented Okposo impressed the coaching staff with his skill and maturity.
"He's an exceptional player that we're looking forward to see play at the NHL level," said head coach Ted Nolan. "There are certain players who have that instinct. He doesn't just skate and shoot the puck well, he also has that great hockey sense. Kyle has all of the ingredients good players have. We wanted to start him on a line with one of our most reliable guys in Richard Park. And considering Blake Comeau has good hockey sense, the three of them should form a pretty good line out there."
With all of the hype surrounding his arrival, there could not have been a humbler player on the ice than Okposo. The right wing expressed his enthusiasm for making it to the NHL.
"Anytime you play your first game at any level, especially the NHL it's an exciting time," said Okposo. I just want to go out there, play my game and help my team win. I look at this as a challenge and try to ignore all the hype. I'm just going to do the best I can to help the team win. I don't have any tricks up my sleeve."CATCH KYLE'S NHL DEBUT
Watch Kyle Okposo
play in his first game with the Islanders when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow at the Nassau Coliseum.
To purchase tickets today, click here
.KYLE'S FAVE FIVEA look at some of Okposo's top games/moments with the Bridgeport Sound TigersBy Adam Baruch
It didn't take long for Kyle Okposo
's presence to be felt at the professional level. In 29 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Okposo registered eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points, including 66 shots on net. Newyorkislanders.com compiled a recap of Kyle's best games/moments with the Sound Tigers (in no particular order).
January 11, 2008 – Bridgeport 2 at Binghamton Senators 3
In his first game at the professional level, Okposo looked as if he were a seasoned veteran. Playing on a line with Jeff Tambellini and Frans Nielsen
, Okposo tallied two assists, but Bridgeport could not overcome three goals by Binghamton, falling 3-2. It took less than two minutes for Okposo to make an impact. The trio combined to register two shots on net in their first shift, including a pass from Okposo to Tambellini that nearly went for a goal. In the second period, with the Sound Tigers on the man-advantage, Kyle found Dustin Kohn, whose shot on net was re-directed by Ben Walter for the score. Trailing 2-1 in the third, the Sound Tigers went on the man-advantage and Okposo found Walter in front of the net for the tying goal. Overall, Okposo tallied four shots on goal in his Bridgeport debut to go along with two assists.January 12, 2008 – Springfield Falcons 2 at Bridgeport 4
Okposo made his home debut just one night after playing his first professional game. On the second night of a back-to-back, Kyle looked strong, collecting a goal and two assists for three points. He took three shots and amassed a plus-2 rating. With the Sound Tigers up 2-0 in the second period, Okposo played set-up man on a give-and-go tally by Nielsen. Okposo's first AHL goal came moments later, when his rocket from the high slot deflected off of a defenseman and into the net. Okposo would later add an assist on a goal by Sean Bentivoglio, earning him First Star of the Game honors and capping off an incredible home opener.February 13, 2008 – Worcester Sharks 0 at Bridgeport 3
While Mike Morrison had a stellar game for the Sound Tigers, stopping all 41 shots faced, Okposo netted a goal and an assist for two points, including the game-winner. The Sound Tigers broke a scoreless tie late in the first period on the power play when Okposo received a feed at the top of the left circle from Walter and blasted the puck past Worcester goalie Thomas Greiss for the score. Kyle assisted on the second goal of the game scored by Tim Jackman with about eight minutes remaining in the second period to put the Sound Tigers up 2-0. Bridgeport would eventually add another tally to make the final score 3-0.February 15, 2008 – Bridgeport 6 at Albany River Rats 3
With Joey MacDonald anchoring the defense by making 46 saves, Okposo had a part in the Sound Tigers' offensive game, collecting a goal and an assist in the 6-3 win over Albany. Kyle assisted on the second goal to put Bridgeport up 2-0 when he saw Steve Regier streaking towards the net. Okposo fired a slap shot on goal which was tipped in by Regier. He would later add an empty-net score to seal the victory for the Sound Tigers. Okposo tallied three shots on net and had a plus-1 rating.February 17, 2008 – Hartford Wolf Pack 1 at Bridgeport 2 (SO)
In a heated game between two rival organizations, the Sound Tigers came away with a 2-1 victory when Okposo beat Hartford netminder, Miika Wiickman in a shootout for the win. After playing a hard fought game in which Okposo tallied three shots on net, the Wolf Pack and Sound Tigers needed a shootout to settle things. After a Trevor Smith goal tied the shootout at 1-1, Joey MacDonald stopped Alex Bourret on Hartford's next attempt. Okposo snapped a shot past Wiickman that gave the Sound Tigers a 2-1 advantage and MacDonald shut the door the rest of the way to seal the deal.