Uncertainty can often breed healthy change, but the cloud of unknown surrounding New York Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo should worry fantasy hockey owners.
While Okposo was expecting to face concerns about recovering from the emergency surgery he had on a detached retina in January, Okposo is also answering questions on whether he will begin the season with the Islanders. He is entering the final year of a five-year $14 million contract, and New York general manager Garth Snow tried to trade Okposo before the NHL draft according to Newsday.
Despite playing well in each of the last two seasons, that amount of uncertainty should considerably lower Okposo’s fantasy value for a few reasons.
As productive as Okposo has been, there is still no indication that he can produce without a top center like John Tavares on his line. Owners received a taste of Okposo without the Islanders captain at the end of the 2013-14 season after Tavares tore his MCL and meniscus at the Sochi Olympics.
In the final 12 games that season, Okposo scored just three goals. In the first 59 games with Tavares before the Olympics, Okposo tallied 24 goals and 59 points in 59 games.
Before suffering the detached retina last season, Okposo was playing really well. He scored 14 goals and 44 points in 46 games to start the season, but that was all with Tavares on the top line. With all the up-and-coming players the Islanders have on their roster, there is a distinct possibility Okposo doesn’t play on the top line. At the very least, he should see a reduction in minutes, which would make it very difficult for the winger to average close to a point-per-game again.
But even if he plays on the top line, there is no guarantee the 27-year-old returns to his old form. The winger began experiencing blurry vision after a game on Jan. 19.
“That whole night, it (eyesight) didn’t get better,” Okposo told the New York Newsday. “So I went in, saw the retina specialist right away and he said, ‘You have a detached retina and we need to do surgery right away.’ It was pretty scary and there wasn’t a guarantee I was going to see again. You definitely stop and pause after you hear that.”
After the surgery, Okposo wasn’t the same player. He had four goals and seven points with a minus-six rating in 14 games. In the playoffs, he tallied two goals and three points in the seven-game series versus the Washington Capitals.
The fact the Islanders were trying to trade him in June probably indicates how they feel about him bouncing back from the detached retina surgery. Or, perhaps Snow is anticipating Okposo not playing as much on the top line this season, so he wants to deal the winger while his trade value is at its peak.
Both scenarios do not bode well for Okposo’s fantasy value.
And if a deal does get done, fantasy owners will return to the first problem: Will Okposo play next to a dominant center? Being that Tavares is one of the best centers in the game, it is hard imagining Okposo’s linemates getting any better.
Last season, the Islanders right winger had an overall ADP of 77 according to Fantasy Pros. Despite all the uncertainty, the Hockey News 2015-16 rankings still have Okposo higher than that at No. 63. Owners wouldn’t mind drafting Okposo in the sixth round of 12-team leagues if he produced like he did before his injury. But again, that seems unlikely.
Therefore, despite the career-numbers over the last two seasons, it might be wise to just let another owner draft Okposo and deal with his uncertainty.