Not many things went right for the New York Islanders last season, but they were certainly pleased with the emergence of right wing Kyle Okposo.
The 26-year-old, who battled inconsistency in prior seasons, found chemistry on the top line alongside center John Tavares and led the Islanders with 69 points (27 goals, 42 assists) in 71 games. He finished in the NHL top 20 in scoring, though he missed the final 10 games of the season with a lower-body injury.
Okposo spent the summer in his native Minnesota but returned to New York recently and skated at the Islanders practice facility on Wednesday. The power forward is aiming to build off his career season with hopes of helping the Islanders qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs after finishing 14th in the Eastern Conference.
Right Wing - NYI
GOALS: 27 | ASST: 42 | PTS: 69
SOG: 195 | +/-: -9
"I want to take that next step," Okposo told the Islanders website. "I don’t want to look at last year and say I had a good year, I want to do that again. I want to be better than I was last year. That's something as an athlete you always want to strive for, to get better. There wasn't a day that went by this summer that I wasn't thinking about that, wanting to be better.
"Everybody has [expectations] and they are what they are. They don't mean anything. All that matters is what's inside you and what's inside this room here. We have expectations of ourselves and everybody personally has their own goals that they want to meet and as a team we do. You can't look at what anybody else is saying, you just have to focus on yourselves."
Islanders general manager Garth Snow made several changes to the roster this offseason, including signing right wing Nikolai Kulemin to a four-year contract. Kulemin was on the ice with some of his new teammates for the first time Wednesday.
Kulemin decided to sign with the Islanders on July 2, the same day center Mikhail Grabovski agreed to a four-year contract. Kulemin and Grabovski combined to score 59 goals with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010-11.
"We were pretty close in Toronto; we played together for five years pretty much on the same line," Kulemin said. "Our wives are pretty good friends, and the kids now. We talked on the phone all the time when he was [with the Washington Capitals], so it's good to be together again."