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Kyle Okposo's huge career year likely wasn't a fluke

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Kyle Okposo had a career year for the New York Islanders in 2013-14, recording 69 points in 71 games. What can he do for an encore?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of things went wrong for the New York Islanders during the 2013-14 season, ranging from injuries to key players to their goaltending completely self-destructing throughout the year.

The end result was a team that had surprisingly made the playoffs the previous year (and very nearly upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round) falling back down to the bottom of the league for their sixth last place finish within the division in seven years.

One of the few things that did go right was the career year they received from winger Kyle Okposo. The former No. 7 overall pick finished with 17 more points than he had ever recorded in any single season and turned out to be one of the better values in the NHL at a cap hit of just $2.8 million.

It was a great year that certainly raised the bar for him heading into 2014-15. Hopefully for his sake it didn't raise the bar too high.

The numbers
Games Goals Assists Points
71 27 42 69
What went right?

A lot of it simply comes down to usage. Specifically, an increased role on the power play that saw him average nearly four minutes of ice-time per game on the man advantage after checking in between 1:30 and 2:30 over the previous three seasons. That jump in ice-time helped lead to 15 power play points in 2013-14 after recording just 14 between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The other factor that worked in Okposo's favor? Getting an opportunity to play alongside John Tavares for most of the season during 5-on-5 play. Okposo logged 1,093 even-strength minutes last season with more than 800 of them (that is 73 percent of his ice time) coming on a line with Tavares. Before last season, only 33 percent of his ice-time had come alongside Tavares since he made his Islanders debut. Who you play next to matters, and when you spend the majority of your ice-time alongside one of the best players in the world, that's definitely going to help your production.

Can he repeat it?

A lot of times when a player has a career year there is something out of the ordinary driving it, usually some sort of percentage that is out of line with the rest of their career and probably unsustainable from one year to the next. But taking a look at Okposo's numbers and that doesn't seem to necessarily be the case.

He finished the season with a 100.0 PDO which doesn't point to any sort of terribly lucky (or unlucky) season. His personal shooting percentage checked in at 13 percent -- which was a bit higher than his normal career average and a huge improvement over the unsustainably low 4 percent he shot in 2012-13 -- but nothing that would point to a huge regression. Look at it this way: If he had shot at his career average of 10.4 percent last season on the same number of shots per game that's still close to 25 goals over an 82-game season.

That's still a great deal for all the Islanders are paying Okposo for the type of game that he plays.

What should we expect in 2014-15?

I'm skeptical that a near point-per-game average is in the cards again for Okposo because those guys are rare in the modern NHL. That sort of production on a year to year basis is usually reserved for the elite of the elite. Only 15 different players have averaged 0.97 points per game (which is what Okposo averaged last season) or more in at least two of the past three seasons, so expecting him to come back with that type of performance for a second year in a row is probably an unreasonable expectation.

As long he continues to get meaningful playing time on the Islanders power play unit and gets to keep playing alongside a player as skilled as John Tavares, he should at least be able to continue producing. And even playing alongside Tavares doesn't seem to be an absolute necessity as his production in a lot of areas is pretty similar across the board whether he's on the ice with Tavares or not.

Here is what he's done per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play since 2009-10 with Tavares versus without Taveres.

Situation Time On Ice Goals/60 Assists/60 Points/60 Shots On Goal/60 Shot Attempts/60
With John Tavares 1,930 .963 1.11 2.08 7.5 13.6
Without John Tavares 3,466 .675 1.09 1.76 7.6 13.9

Other than his goal-scoring, which sees a pretty nice spike with Tavares thanks to an increase in his shooting percentage (and I'm not convinced that is a coincidence) those numbers are pretty similar. And it's not like a 1.76 points/60 average is terrible. It would have been good enough to finish in the top half of the league last season among forwards. Bottom line is the guy is simply a pretty good hockey player.

It is possible for a player to continue to play at the same level (and even improve his overall play) even if his box score numbers drop. Okposo seems like a reasonable candidate for that type of season in 2014-15.