Sabres' Okposo is feeling great and ready to get back to what he used to be

The winger is happy with all the changes the team has made

Paul Hamilton
August 23, 2018 - 5:50 pm

Photo: Paul Hamilton (@pham1717)

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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - When Kyle Okposo left in April, he said he must demand more from himself and was looking forward to working out in the summer the way he knew he can.

If you remember last summer, Okposo didn’t know if he’d ever play hockey or be normal again after a bout with Altered Mental Status caused by a medication he got for a concussion.

The winger was never really right during the season and he knew it, “I feel good, I worked on a lot of things that I needed to work on and feeling a lot better coming into camp this year than last year, that’s for sure.”

In his career, Okposo averages 21 goals and 56 points over 82 games. Last season, he netted 15 goals and 44 points.

Last season was also very mentally draining on the winger. In the past four months, he didn’t have to worry about if he can be the husband or dad that he wants to be. He didn’t have to worry about if he’d every play hockey again. He said that was a huge load off of him, “It was a big relief to where I could just train the way that I wanted to and do the things that I know make me a successful hockey player. Last summer was a lot about working on my mind and just making sure I could play the game again, where now I know I can play so lets get back to trying to be an elite player.”  

“Everybody knew what was going on last year and they just challenged me to get better and they challenged me to get back to where I was. I expected more out of myself than anybody else does, so last season was particularly difficult.”

Okposo turned 30 in April. Many players start declining at this point of their careers, but Okposo thinks he can beat those odds, “I’ve been around this game awhile now and you get on the other side of 30 and a lot of guys say, ‘Oh he’s past his prime’ and 'If he has a couple of bad years, he’s on the way down' and I’m very aware of that and seen it happen to many guys, so I wanted to do everything that I could in order to not get that way and try and get better.

“I’m not going to be happy just riding off into the sunset, I had a few good years and whatever, I want to get back to being an elite player, I want to help this team win and I think I’m capable of that.”

It’s hard for players to lead when they aren’t playing well themselves. Okposo ran into that last year, as well as Ryan O’Reilly and Zach Bogosian. In Bogosian’s case, it was due to injury, but all three were one of the captains. Okposo knows he has to be much better in leading, “I need to take more of a leadership role, I wore a letter last year, but my game wasn’t where it needed to be, so it was tough for me to be demanding on guys as I needed to be and that I thought I should’ve been, so that’s something that comes with my play.”

We all knew that Jason Botterill was going to make changes, but I don’t know how many felt that 10 guys would be out and nine new guys would be in. Okposo said, “Bots wanted to address some things and he certainly was able to do that. It was pretty drastic, half our lineup is gone, so it’s exciting, it’s tough, it’s part of the business.

“It was tough to see a player of Ryan’s caliber go, but in saying that, he definitely sent a message to our group that we have to change, so he brought in a lot of guys that are very solid players. I think he did a really good job and the onus is on us to get this thing moving in the right direction.”

Okposo watched the NHL Draft Lottery that landed the Sabres Rasmus Dahlin. He said with a huge smile, “I was pumped, I’ve seen a lot of clips of Rasmus and today was my first day on the ice with him and he’s a special player, he’s going to be fun to watch for sure.”

Okposo was part of a large group that skated Thursday down at HarborCenter. There was Jack Eichel, Jason Pominville, Jonas Johansson, Dahlin, Johan Larsson, Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson, Brandon Hickey, Andrew Oglevie, Lawrence Pilut, Rasmus Asplund, C.J. Smith, Will Borgen, Victor Olofsson, Eric Cornel, Justin Bailey and Brendan Guhle. Zemgus Girgensons is usually out there with the group too.

Thompson was wearing 72, while Borgen switched to 33, which makes me wonder if Matt Hunwick took the No. 3. Hunwick wore 22 with Pittsburgh and Toronto, and 48 with Boston.

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