Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Impressions of, and questions concerning--RW, Kyle Okposo

Right Wing--Kyle Okposo DOB: April 16, 1988 (Age, 31)
Draft: 2006, 1st round (7th-overall,) NYI
How acquired: 2016 FA
Last contract signed: July 1, 2016--7yr./$42M
Final year of contract: 2022-23

2018-19 Stats:  78 games | 14 goals | 15 assists | 29 points | -9 | 13:47 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats:  219 games | 48 goals | 70 assists | -50 | 16:27 ATOI

What we wrote preseason:  The 2017-18 NHL season for Buffalo Sabres right winger Kyle Okposo is being widely regarded as a mulligan for the 30 yr. old. Okposo's health issues, stemming from treatment for a concussion, landed him in the intensive care unit in April, 2017 and as the off season hit, for him it wasn't about gearing up for the following season it was more about whether or not he'd ever be able to play the game again.

However, Okposo is now facing another hurdle--Father Time. The 30 yr. old is at a point where, generally speaking, players begin to decline. "I’ve been around this game awhile now," he said, "and you get on the other side of 30 and a lot of guys say, ‘Oh he’s past his prime’ and 'If he has a couple of bad years, he’s on the way down' and I’m very aware of that and seen it happen to many guys. 

Okposo will probably be Buffalo's No. 2 right winger with rookie Casey Mittelstadt or veteran Patrik Berglund at center. In either instance he expects, and is expected, to succeed.

What we wrote mid-season:  We all know about Okposo's contract, his health issues and his struggles scoring. The Sabres could be getting the same production of 15 points (5+19) and a minus-4 rating through 37 games from a player with a cap-hit much less than Okposo's $6 million but they're stuck with that for four and a half more seasons. It's the type of contract that could haunt Buffalo in the near future as Skinner, Reinhart and defensemen Rasmus Dahlin will all need new, and lucrative, contracts within the next two years. Buffalo desperately needs a No. 2 right wing that can score on a consistent basis and Okposo was supposed to be that guy. Outside of some solid, but somewhat modest, numbers in his first season with the Sabres that type of top-six production hasn't materialized and Housley's been forced to play him up and down the bottom-nine. Okposo is a player that's easy to pull for as he's overcome adversity and exudes professionalism on a daily basis, but there comes a point in time where said player needs to step up his game and help this team move forward. That time has come.

Impressions on his play this year:  It didn't come. Okposo finished the year with 14 goals and 15 assists, which was worse than the prior season when returned from his scary health issues. With 11 of those points (7+4) coming on the powerplay, in essence the $6 million man was a bottom-six winger/powerplay specialist for the Sabres last year. 

When it comes to his physical attributes, Okposo isn't slow but a much faster NHL game can leave him in the dust a bit and he does have a tendency to get lost in the pace of the play. He's pretty strong in the corners and below the goal line but there were many times where he tried to do too much resulting in turnovers. He has an excellent shot which we've witnessed on the powerplay however he had trouble finding open space 5v5. Open space is often difficult to find when playing in the bottom-six, but Okposo really hasn't done anything top-six worthy since his first year with the Sabres.

Buffalo is not unique when it comes to bad contracts as most teams in the league have at least one, and many can be traced to free agency. The good news for the Sabres is that they're not in a cap bind right now and don't need to hit the panic button on a $6 million bottom-six player. In an ideal world Okposo would produce like an overpaid top-nine winger but his play last season has us leaning towards a player that won't be around in a couple of years.  

Questions moving forward:  Can he work on his skating a touch this summer? Will the third coach be a charm for him? Can he at least get to 40 points, a total that's well below his career average but, unfortunately, right in line with what he's averaged the last three years with the Sabres? Does he deserve the 'A' that's sewn on his sweater? Would GM Jason Botterill trade away Buffalo's other first round pick to move him? Is there a team that would take on that contract?

Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via and hockey

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