UNIONDALE, N.Y. — On the night the New York Islanders honored one of the franchise's all-time greats in Bryan Trottier, one of his mentees put on a show.
“It was a fun night to score goals,” said Okposo afterward. “The atmosphere was awesome out there. I haven’t heard it that loud since we played these guys in the playoffs.”
Back in 2006, Trottier was the Islanders’ Executive Director of Player Development working with the team’s prospects. One of those future Islanders was Okposo, who had worked with the Hall of Famer at a USA Hockey select camp when he was 15. Now he was a fresh first round pick out of the University of Minnesota with high expectations.
The impression Trottier left with Okposo in 2006 remains to this day, and it was fitting the Islanders’ forward had a career night with old no. 19 in the building.
“Trots has been a bit of mentor of mine,” Okposo said. “When I came into the league, my first rookie camp I remember he was there in 2006. [I] just kind of picked his brain. The way that he carried himself and still carries himself to this day is something that I really look up to and try and emulate.”
The YES! YES! YES! chants that rose from the Nassau Coliseum crowd grew louder with each of the team’s six goals. The win was the Islanders’ third in a row against the Penguins and moved them three points ahead of Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division standings.
The Islanders have been one of the season’s best stories and the confidence in the locker is growing with every victory. As they continue to pick up points and further cement their position as a playoff team, the word “elite” is beginning to be uttered.
“Yeah, I think that’s where we see ourselves,” said Islanders forward Ryan Strome. “Hopefully some other people start seeing us that way too. As long as we believe that within, that’s what’s matters. We’re confident in our group, like we keep saying. We’re only halfway through. We’ve got to keep going. I think we’re on the right track.”
This season's success has been a long-time coming as general manager Garth Snow has slowly pieced together a team that holds the third-best record in the entire NHL as of Friday night. But with 38 games to go in the regular season, head coach Jack Capuano isn't ready to look that far ahead. He is, however, pleased to see the team's chemistry continue to strengthen.
“For me it’s gratifying to see them, we talk about it being a brotherhood in there, and that’s what they’re doing right now," he said. "They’re playing extremely hard together.”
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