Last spring, the Islanders won their first playoff series in 23 years. A big part of what led to the series victory for the Isles was the first line of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Frans Nielson. After the Isles were defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 5 games in the second round, the futures of Okposo and Nielson were up in the air. The two unrestricted free agents ended up signing elsewhere.
When the three former longtime teammates arrived in Los Angeles for the all-star weekend, they ended up hanging out together. The three had dinner together Friday night, catching up with each other and sharing memories. Nielson spent the first 10 years of his career playing for the Islanders after being drafted in the third round of the 2002 draft. Okposo was drafted by the Islanders as the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft. He would end up playing seven seasons with the Islanders.
Due to their long tenures and solid and steady play for the Islanders, Okposo and Nielson were fan favorites. When Okposo signed with the Sabres and Nielson signed with the Red Wings last off-season, most Islanders fans were sad to see them go. The three players were longtime teammates on the ice and continue to be close friends off the ice. When Nielson was asked about his bond with Okposo and Tavares before the skills competition, he said “We had gone through so much together over the years in New York. I’m really excited to be here, together with them. We had dinner and caught up on old times and what’s going on today. We went through some hard times in New York in the beginning. When you do that and grow as a team, I think you build a special bond with those guys you go through those hard times with. They’re two of by best friends today and I miss them a lot for sure.”
The three were seen together multiple times throughout the night of the skills competition, talking with each other and posing side by side for photos on the ice and in the dressing room. This afternoon, Nielson and Okposo, part of the Atlantic Division, will face off against John Tavares and the Metropolitan Division. While it is great to see Okposo and Nielson getting the recognition they deserve, it’s bittersweet for me, as well as many Islanders fans to no longer see them in orange and blue.