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It’s hard enough to pay attention to the latest news while you are supposed to be “working” – especially waiting to post the news about Simon’s suspension length. What I was not expecting to see today, was news on the Islanders first round selection in the 2006 draft (7th overall) Kyle Okposo and how he is on the verge of signing a contract with the big club.

When I first read about this breaking story, it was via the typical message boards – which brought me to a Gopher Hockey message board – Kyle O’s collegiate hockey team. At that point, everything had been purely speculation and I decided I should finish up the service call that I was on so I could head home. While sitting in traffic on Sunrise Highway, I checked Logan’s blog – the place you go to looking for official news before it is released, and noticed his latest post confirming what we had all hoped – contract negotiations are ongoing.

Okposo will be attending the Under-20 World Junior championships in the Czech Republic from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 representing Team USA and it will be decided then if he will be assigned to the Islanders AHL affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers or the Everett Silvertips of the CHL which owns his Junior Rights. It always remains a possibility, that the 19-year old could jump right into the Islanders lineup that is in desperate need of a shake up – should there be a roster spot open.

Update #1:
Per the University of Minnesota Press Conference:

University of Minnesota sophomore Kyle Okposo has chosen to forgo the remainder of the 2007-08 season and his career with the Golden Gophers to sign a contract with the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League.

Okposo was the Islanders’ first-round draft choice and the seventh player taken overall in the 2006 entry draft. He is the eighth Minnesota player to leave college early for the professional ranks since the end of the 2005-06 season. Okposo is departing today for the Czech Republic as a member of the United States’ under-20 national team that is competing at the International Ice Hockey Federation world championships and will join the Islanders following the tournament.

“While I’m disappointed Kyle is leaving at this point of the season, his dream has been to play pro hockey,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “It is unfortunate that the Islanders put him in a very difficult position. I think our team has made strides the last few weeks and I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.”

A St. Paul native who attended Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn., Okposo burst onto the collegiate scene last season with 19 goals and 21 assists in 40 games as a freshman. He earned second-team All-WCHA honors and was named to the league’s All-Rookie Team. Amid speculation that he would leave for the NHL after his freshman season, Okposo announced on June 6 that he would return to the Gophers.

Okposo had a slow start to the 2007-08 season with an eight-game scoreless streak after a three-point game in the season opener against Rensselaer. He scored points in six of the last nine games, totaling seven goals and four assists over the team’s first 18 games as Minnesota currently owns a 9-8-1 record.

All of this is a complete shock mind you, as Okposo said his focus (over the summer) was to spend another year in college. The Islanders were supportive of his decision and told him to take his time. Now, could the Gophers struggles this season and the upcoming World’s be on Kyle’s mind? One can assume that the temptation at turning pro and being an instant impact in the NHL could make any person second guess whatever decisions they previously made.

Should he make it to the Islanders lineup – what an awesome Christmas present that would be!

Update #2:

Per Islanders Insider:

Islanders fans, get ready: highly-touted prospect Kyle Okposo will be joining the Islanders family in the very near future.

The team’s 7th overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft – a tantalizing package of speed, power and grit – announced today that he is leaving the University of Minnesota in order to begin his professional hockey career.

The 6-1, 205-pound right wing will represent Team USA at the World Junior Championships before turning pro. That means a timetable of joining the Islanders organization as early as the first week in January.

But first off is the matter of a contract. Newyorkislanders.com has learned that Islanders general manager Garth Snow and Okposo’s representative Neil Sheehy are currently in negotiations on an entry-level deal for the talented wing.

“We’re extremely excited about the possibility of Kyle joining our organization soon,” said Snow. “He’s a great talent, one of the most exciting prospects in the game. Kyle has the dedication and character we want for our franchise.”

A recent scouting report from Islanders assistant general manager Ryan Jankowski to newyorkislanders.com included this: “Kyle’s ability to control the puck along the boards and play a power forward-style game will be a huge asset to the Islanders for a long time to come. He has a great future in our organization.”