Born: April 16, 1988 – St. Paul, Minnesota
2006-07 Team: Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA)
Acquired: Islanders 2006 first-round draft pick (7th overall)
Kyle Okposo had quite the freshman year with the WCHA's Minnesota Golden Gophers. Despite the team falling short of their ultimate goal of a national championship, they won both the WCHA regular season title and playoff championship.
In 40 games, the St. Paul native placed second on the team in goals with 19 and second in points with 40. His point total was tied for seventh in the country among rookies. Okposo also ranked tied for third on the team with three game-winning goals and six power play goals.
Okposo's year-long performance earned him spots on the WCHA All-Rookie team and the All-WCHA second team. He was the only freshman picked to be on one of the top two conference teams.
Of his 19 goals, the most magnificent was his game-winning tally against Minnesota State-Mankato on Dec. 12. Okposo received the puck at the side of the net, brought the puck and his stick back between his legs before lifting the biscuit over the sprawled goalie for a 2-1 Gophers lead.
The Islanders' 2006 number one draft pick missed four of Minnesota's games while representing the United States at the World Junior Championships in Sweden. He helped lead the US to the bronze medal.
What They're Saying...
Islanders assistant GM Ryan Jankowski: "Kyle had a very good year for a freshman at the University of Minnesota. He played in all situations and saw plenty of quality ice time, which helped his development, considering he was playing at such a high level of hockey. Kyle represented the United States well at the World Juniors. Although he finished the tournament with one point, he played a key role in the team's offense and at times showed his excellent skills and determination. Kyle plays a strong two-way game as a power type forward. His ability to protect the puck and show an extra gear of speed in the offensive zone is his greatest strength as a player."
Before He Was a Gopher
Okposo played high school hockey at Shattuck in Minnesota. In two seasons at the Midget level he compiled 191 points. During his senior year, he joined the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. Okposo helped lead the Buccaneers to the league title after compiling 27-31-58 in 50 games. He placed second on Des Moines in goals, assists and points.
Okposo has a tough decision to make this summer. At only 19 years of age, Okposo still has three years of eligibility left at the college level. However, many top prospects leave school early and sign with their respective NHL teams in order to play at the pro level and accelerate the development process. Okposo has indicated he will tell Minnesota head coach Don Lucia of his intentions by June 1.
"What is most important right now is that Kyle continues to develop as a player and a leader," said Jankowski. "Kyle fits the mold of players we are bringing to this organization. He has the potential to be a player that Islander fans will love watching for a long time."
Being a native of Minnesota, Okposo grew up dreaming of a national championship with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. After another early exit by Minnesota in the NCAAs, the decision to leave school early is even harder for Okposo.
Islanders GM Garth Snow has made it clear he will not talk Okposo into leaving college early. Snow will welcome him with open arms when Okposo is ready, but he wants it to be the youngster's decision.
No matter what transpires this summer, Okposo has the makings of being a top-notch NHL power forward.
| ||Regular Season ||Playoffs |
|Season ||Team ||Lge ||GP ||G ||A ||Pts ||PIM ||GP ||G ||A ||Pts ||PIM |
|2005-06 ||Des Moines Buccaneers ||USHL ||50 ||27 ||31 ||58 ||56 ||11 ||5 ||11 ||16 ||8 |
|2006-07 ||U. of Minnesota ||NCAA ||40 ||19 ||21 ||40 ||34 |