The New York Islanders didn’t make a single move this trade deadline. No deep breath and a “put it all on the table” type acquisition of Matt Duchene. Not even a sniff and pickup of a rental depth forward the likes of Tyler Kennedy like they have in past seasons. But that’s not to say the roster didn’t change post trade deadline. With Travis Hamonic back from the injured reserve and more importantly, the call-up of Joshua Ho-Sang, the Isles get a top-six forward with plenty of dynamic ability offensively.
Here’s how they can get the most out of the quickly blossoming forward.
Top Power Play Unit Time
While he’s just 21-years-old, Ho-Sang has already shown the ability to be a star at the NHL level. Simply put, this kid can pass and is dangerous when he has space. He’s perfect for the man-advantage and can gain confidence here. Moving him to the first unit will allow the hot Ryan Strome (who thought we’d be saying that?) to center the second unit with Brock Nelson and Andrew Ladd as well. That would give the Isles two solid PP units, but most importantly, would allow Ho-Sang to share the ice with the team’s best offensive talent. Don’t forget, this kid is a former first round pick. On the power play with the team’s best is exactly where he needs to be.
Even-Strength Shifts With John Tavares
Since he took the reins of the team, Islanders head coach Doug Weight has consistently double-shifted Tavares with other lines in an effort to jump-start the Isles offense. This needs to be done with Ho-Sang’s line as well. Again, Ho-Sang is a passer and Tavares is at his best when he’s shooting. It could be a match made in heaven. Although he’s only a few games into his NHL career, Ho-Sang has the potential to be a 40-assist guy in the league. There aren’t many of those. While his first season in the American Hockey League was a bit rocky at times, he left Bridgeport with 36 points, including 26 helpers, in 48 games. Hard to argue with that type of punch.
We’ve already seen this season what some blue-collar work on the penalty kill has done for Tavares. For the wild and rambunctious Ho-Sang, it could be grounding and way to teach him respect and give him poise. Smart with the puck and quick, he has the skill set to be a solid penalty killer. However, it would force him to improve his play away from the puck and become a better overall player. If the Isles are serious about Ho-Sang, this is a great way to help give him a larger role.
Allow Creativity in the Shootout
While he’s been labeled as a pass-first player, Ho-Sang is a unique talent in the shootout. It’s here where the Islanders coaching staff has to let him be himself. With the losses of PA Parenteau, Kyle Okposo and of course, Frans Nielsen, the Isles are a far weaker team in the shootout than they have been. This is definitely an area where Ho-Sang can be a force.
Can Ho-Sang Deliver?
Although the rest of this season will just be a small sample size, Ho-Sang has already shown glimpses of creativity and offensive poise. In order for his continued development, however, he needs a bigger role. Unlike Anthony Beauvillier, who can be a force physically and defensively and provide offense, Ho-Sang is more one-dimensional. That doesn’t mean he can’t help the team stay in the playoff hunt. He just needs to be nurtured a bit differently. With a solid AHL season under his belt, he’s already proven that he’s ready to play in the NHL. That’s a start.
Over the past ten years as a working journalist, Patrick Hickey Jr. has covered the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, as well as the Brooklyn Aces of the former EPHL, contributing pieces and/or holding Editorial positions at NBC, New York Sports Day, NY Sportscene Magazine and the New York Times. During that time, he has interviewed NHL stars the likes of Brendan Shanahan, Bernie Nicholls, Bob Probert, Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise. He is also the first winner of the New York Islanders Blog of the Year Award, for his work on TheDriveForFive.com in 2008.