Among the myriad of options available in the 2016 free agency class, Kyle Okposo is among my personal favourites. He’s a mixture of power forward mixed and sniper and can do a great deal of damage when he’s with the right players and in the right frame of mind.
Okposo is coming off a steal of a contract and will be looking for a raise, but he’s within the Canucks’ spending range and checks a lot of boxes for them. He’s even got an extra little tie in to a high level Canucks prospect.
Interpreting the majestic HERO chart, we can see that Okposo can easily fill the role of top six scoring winger. His setup abilities are impressive even compared to that of first liners. His shot generation is considerably better than his shot suppression, though his possession numbers on the whole are still quite strong. He’s shown a consistent ability to improve his linemates’ possession numbers over the past several season.
Okposo is coming off of one of his better years (always nice for a player heading into free agency), in which he scored 22 goals (it was the third time that he hit the 20-goal mark) and 64 points in 79 games. It was an improvement of the previous year, in which he put up 51 points in 60 games, missing 22 games with injuries.
His most impressive year by far was 2013-14, when he scored a career high 27 goals and added 42 helpers to total 69 points in 71 games played. Okposo is a volume shooter, averaging over 2.5 shots per game in his career.
Okposo can be termed both a power forward and a sniper. He has the size to bull his way through defenders and charge the net, and he also has no problem firing hard, accurate lasers for goals from a distance. This is a very tantalizing package, though the problem is that Okposo doesn’t always seem to know which game he wants to play. This can lead to inconsistencies in his play, and, occasionally, frustration from coaches.
Okposo has had a tendency to wear down over the course of a season, and while he played in 79 contests last season, he missed a combined 33 games in the two seasons prior. He also missed 44 games in the 2010-11 season following a shoulder injury that required surgery. Due diligence will be required (as it always should be) to make sure that what has previously ailed Okposo is behind him, though his style of play does open him up to getting banged up in the future.
Okposo is a scoring winger and the Canucks need a scoring winger. Square peg, square hole.
Obviously it’s not always that simple, but Okposo seems to check boxes beyond that. He’s fast, he’s got size and he likes to use it, usually. At his best, he plays what Jim Benning might consider a Western Conference style of game.
He’s coming off a five-year deal that paid him $2.8 million per season, so he’s in line for a big raise. Last year he was paid $4.5 million in salary, which is probably closer the the annual average he’ll be expecting on his new contract. The Canucks have plenty of cap space and this is about what they’d expect to pay for one of the top end scoring wingers on the open market this summer.
As an added bonus, Okposo has another pseudo-connection to Vancouver that I’ve mentioned before, in that he’s one of Brock Boeser’s favourite players, and one that Boeser has tried to model his game after. It’s not hard to notice either – those who have watched Boeser’s highlights will see plenty of similarities to the highlights in the video posted above. So who better to mentor Boeser, your top forward prospect, when he arrives in Vancouver in 2017 than the player he is trying to emulate. Like Boeser, Okposo went the college route, playing for the University of Minnesota – a rival school of the University of North Dakota where Boeser is plying his trade. The two of them also share the same home state of Minnesota, with Okposo hailing from St. Paul and Boeser coming from Burnsville.
I see a fit here in a lot of different ways. The one thing that concerns me is the potential for injury, as Okposo has missed some decent chunks of time over the past several years. That said, he’s still young, having recently turned 28 years old. This is a player that you could comfortably offer four or five years to at a fairly lofty salary and not be too concerned about how he’s going to look at the end of it.
I’d give an Okposo signing my stamp of approval – I say go for it.