Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:UNIONDALE, N.Y. — For the second time in a row, Kyle Okposo will not be donning a Team USA jersey at the Olympics. And, just like the rest of the hockey world, Okposo learned of the bad news while watching Wednesday’s Winter Classic on television.
Okposo was obviously disappointed with the decision, but he is trying to use it as a positive to motivate him the rest of the NHL season.
“You want to use it in the right way, a positive way,” he said. “I’m gunna keep going. Keep playing my game and I want to continue to get better. To improve, to grow my game and that’s what I’m going to look to do in the second half of the season.”
The 25-year-old St.Paul, Minnesota native has been having a strong season for the Islanders. In 41 games, Okposo has 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) and is just second in points among American players. The only American with more is Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.
Line mate, and Islander captain, John Tavares thought Okposo deserved to be on the American roster heading to Sochi.
“I think [Okposo] has played tremendous for us this season and I think you’ve seen a lot of growth in his game,” Tavares said. ” I believe he deserves to be on that team. I think some of those other countries are going to be pretty lucky they don’t play against him over there.”
Okposo said that it was, “a little bit frustrating” that some people believe he can’t handle the larger ice surface, which is apparently one of the reasons why he wasn’t selected for the team.
“That’s their opinion,” Okposo said, when asked about the topic. “I think I’ve proven myself on the big sheet in college and I’ve had a lot of international experience playing World Championships with them. That’s their view point and that’s OK.”
The unofficial second half of the NHL season begins Thursday night against the Blackhawks and Islander coach Jack Capuano believes Okposo will continue his strong play into the new year.
“Just knowing the way he is, he’s going to continue to battle hard,” he said.