MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota sophomore forward Kyle Okposo is leaving college to sign with the New York Islanders, the school announced Wednesday.
Okposo, selected seventh overall in the 2006 draft, is the eighth Gophers player to forgo remaining eligibility to turn pro since the end of the 2005-06 season.
The Islanders have begun negotiations with Okposo on an entry-level contract.
"We're extremely excited about the possibility of Kyle joining our organization soon," general manager Garth Snow said. "He's a great talent, one of the most exciting prospects in the game. Kyle has the dedication and character we want for our franchise."
The native of St. Paul, who played at prep school Shattuck St. Mary's in Faribault, is playing with the U.S. Under-20 national team at the world junior championships in the Czech Republic. He'll join the Islanders following the tournament.
It wasn't immediately clear if Okposo would go straight to the NHL or be assigned to New York's AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
"While I'm disappointed Kyle is leaving at this point of the season, his dream has been to play pro hockey," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "It is unfortunate that the Islanders put him in a very difficult position. I think our team has made strides the last few weeks, and I'm looking forward to the second half of the season."
After finishing with 19 goals and 21 assists as a freshman, Okposo had a slow start to the season with an eight-game scoreless streak after a three-point game in the opener. He had seven goals and four assists in 18 games for the Gophers (9-8-1).