Isles top-prospect Okposo to join team after world junior tourney

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders signed top-
prospect Kyle Okposo to a three-year, entry-level contract on

Okposo, currently playing for the United States at the world
junior tournament in the Czech Republic, reached a deal with the
Islanders just more than a week after he left the University of

He will join the Islanders organization, which selected him with
the No. 7 pick in the 2006 NHL draft, after the junior tournament
is over. The 19-year-old right winger from St. Paul, Minn., already
has a goal and two assists in two games with the American team.

Okposo earned an assist Friday in the United States' 4-2 victory
over Switzerland.

He will earn $850,000 each year of the deal and is eligible for
bonuses that could reach a maximum of another $850,000 per season.

"This is an incredible day for me and my family,'' Okposo said
in a statement. "I want to thank the Islanders for making it
happen and I want our fans to know that I can't wait to begin my
Islanders career. My focus right now needs to be on Team USA, but
I'll be more than ready when my pro career starts in a few weeks.''

In 1½ seasons at Minnesota, Okposo had 26 goals with 25 assists
in 58 games. As a freshman, he scored 19 goals and 40 points in 40

"It would be an understatement to say we're excited about
coming to terms with Kyle Okposo on his first contract with the
Islanders,'' general manager Garth Snow said. "Kyle is the
complete package. He has skill and character in abundance.

"Our organization is going to work extremely hard with Kyle to
make him the best player that he can be.''

Okposo was listed as 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds on the USA Hockey
Web site.

He got off to a slow start this season with Minnesota, enduring
an eight-game scoreless streak after a three-point game in the
opener. He had seven goals and four assists in 18 games for the

"I've had the chance to observe Kyle and talk with him at our
prospect development camps,'' Islanders coach Ted Nolan said.
"This is a very gifted hockey player and a special individual.

"I was asked the other day to compare him to Jarome Iginla or
other power forwards in the NHL. My response is that it's our
responsibility to develop him and see that Kyle Okposo makes a name
for himself.''

Okposo's departure from Minnesota was a bit messy as Snow and
Gophers coach Don Lucia got into a sparring match in the media.
Lucia said the Islanders put Okposo in a difficult position in
getting him to leave school, while Snow criticized the coaching and
development opportunities the program was providing.

"They have a responsibility to coach, to make Kyle a better
player, and they were not doing that,'' Snow told the Star Tribune.
"He just wasn't getting better -- bottom line. And to me, that's
the frustrating part. We entrusted the coach there to turn him into
a better hockey player, and it wasn't happening. We feel more
comfortable in him developing right under our watch.''

Lucia defended the job he did with Okposo and the team.

"I am proud of all the success of our program,'' he said in a
statement to the Star Tribune. "I believe our staff does an
excellent job of developing our players on and off the ice.

"We have had numerous players sign and play in the NHL, but
just as important many more move on to have successful careers
after graduating from the University of Minnesota.''