Photo Credit: Brad Kurtzberg/Inside Hockey
As he enters his third full season in the NHL, Islanders forward Kyle Okposo sees better things ahead for both himself personally and his team.
“All the guys are excited,” Okposo said. “We’re having fun in training camp but it’s going to be nice when the games start. We’ve put some good pieces together. We’ve made a couple of off-season moves that are really going to help. We’ve got a couple of good goalies back there, too. Everybody’s got another year under their belt and all the younger guys, they’ve got some more experience, so we feel really good about our team.”
Last year, the former first round draft choice put together his most productive NHL season with 19 goals and 52 points in 80 games. Still, he knows he can reach even greater heights both with his goal scoring and his all-around game. Okposo indicated he had a number he was shooting for with regard to his goal total this season, but refused to divulge the number.
“I am just going to keep on doing what I’m doing,” the 22-year-old St. Paul native said. “You just have to go play your game and do whatever you can to help the team win and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”
Another reason Okposo is hopeful about the coming season is the return to health of goalie Rick DiPietro.
“It’s great to see him around the locker room,” he said. “He’s got a smile on his face. I think he feels really good and we’re all happy to have him back. He looks good.”
Okposo also realizes that for the Islanders to make the playoffs, they will need some of their younger players (himself included) to step up their games. He sees signs that it is starting to happen.
“The young guys are really starting to mature a little bit,” Okposo added. “You look at a guy like Josh Bailey and the way he’s come in. He came in as a 19-year-old kid and now he’s almost 21 and he seems so mature. That’s the stepping stone for our team and that’s what’s going to keep happening.”
The Islanders improved their record by 18 points last season, but still fell nine points shy of a playoff berth. The team lost some close games, especially right after the All-Star break that proved costly.
“If we could have won a few of those games, our outcome would have been different but you can’t look at the past, you have to keep going,” he added. “We’ll make adjustments and figure out how to win those close one-goal games.”
If they do, things will be looking up for Okposo and the Islanders this season.
The Islanders announced the signing of first round draft choice Nino Niederreiter to a three-year entry level contract worth a reported $2.7 million.
Club owner Charles Wang also announced that the club would remain at the Nassau Coliseum at least until their lease expires in 2015. Wang is attempting to renovate the Coliseum as part of the Lighthouse Project which has been stalled by the government of the Town of Hemptstead.