Why Okposo Is the Perfect Complement to Eichel

By Chris Boyle

In search of a running mate for Jack Eichel, the the Sabres dipped into the free-agency pool and acquired long-time John Tavares wingman Kyle Okposo in the offseason.

Their chemistry on the Island was unmistakable. Tavares possesses one of the greatest offensive skill sets in the NHL and Okposo proved to be a strong complement to the the Islanders captain.

Kyle Okposo reflects on his time with the Islanders and explains why he knew that he was going to leave in free agency.

The question is now, will he provide Eichel the same support he gave Tavares?

Like Tavares, Eichel proved himself extremely dangerous with the puck. But when he was paired with Evander Kane last season, the results were mixed. Eichel’s game became individually driven and the pairing didn’t always tap into Eichel’s vast offensive potential.

This is where Okposo’s game will help in the development of Eichel.

Okposo is a career 10.4 percent shooter, which is significantly above average. What is interesting is what drives that ability. Generally, when we think of above-average shooting ability, we imagine a quick-strike release or velocity that drives the shooting percentage, not the distribution of these opportunities.

Boyle Okposo Graphic 122216

Okposo has the ability to gain the zone and create his own offensive opportunities. When he enters the zone and create shots off the rush, he is only a 6.0 percent shooter. Overall on his clear-sighted looks, he has managed a 4.7 percent success rate versus the average expected success rate of 6.4 percent. Okposo grades out as a league average shooter, but the 28-year-old does have an above-average rate when it comes to shots produced from rebounds.

Okposo is elite in producing high-quality opportunities.

okposo_distribution

It becomes clear where Okposo’s success comes from. It’s also why there’s so much potential with Eichel’s still-evolving game to be a tremendous asset as the young star’s wingman.

Looking at the gray area that represents an average shooter’s distribution, we see that Okposo’s only shortcoming is his actual overall finishing ability. If he could finish at an above-average level, he wouldn’t just be a very good power forward, he would be a perennial All-Star.

With that being said, Okposo is the perfect complimentary player and one who doesn’t need the puck to produce high-end opportunities. He has the size and strength to retrieve loose pucks as well as create a strong net-front presence. This is evident in his consistent ability to create tipped opportunities as well as consistently bull his way to stray rebounds in the high-danger and medium-danger zones.

He also can consistently find the soft spots in the offensive zone where he can take advantage of the slot line and create spacing in the zone where Tavares consistently found him. This has already resulted in two slot-line feeds from Eichel in their limited time together.

Eichel has already proven his ability to create his own scoring chances. A player like Okposo can make Eichel more productive without even receiving a pass based on his puck retrieval and positioning alone. Okposo can become his perfect running mate for Eichel to distribute the puck to.

Based on this microdata, the Sabres have found one winger that fits it seamlessly with their franchise star.