The saga between the New York Islanders and Josh Ho-Sang continued this season, but things have been quiet as of late. After not making the team out of camp, he opted out of playing for the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and requested a trade from the Islanders organization. The reason for the opt out was unknown, but can likely be speculated that it was due to his belief that he belongs in the NHL. Fast forward to Dec. 16, and Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello found no trade partners. Ho-Sang announced with a playful Instagram post that he was returning to the game of hockey, and was with the Sound Tigers the next day.
His off-ice antics likely put a blemish on his resume, but make no mistake, Ho-Sang still has the talent to play in the NHL. Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson told Arthur Staple of The Athletic, “His skills are undeniable. That’s one of the things, it’s amazing to watch him. He can take a game over and it’s fun to watch…” (from The ‘conundrum’ of Josh Ho-Sang: What those who have coached the Islanders talent think is missing, The AthleticNHL – 8/15/19). Of course, this was said before the absence took place, but that doesn’t change the skillset he possesses.
The Current Situation
Now that the hold out is over, Ho-Sang has appeared in 12 AHL games with the Sound Tigers, and finds himself on the scoresheet more often than not, contributing two goals and six helpers for a total of eight points. Although eight points in 12 games isn’t quite a point-per-game pace, injuries and roster moves have surmounted in Bridgeport, so consistent linemates have been hard to come by. Despite the line shuffling, Ho-Sang consistently finds himself within the top-six forwards, and getting in work on the power play.
Across three seasons from the 2016-17 to the 2018-19 season, Ho-Sang has only appeared in a number of NHL games, playing 21 in 2016-17, 22 in 2017-18, and 10 in 2018-19 seasons. Although he never received a crack at a full NHL season, in 53 total games played, he has registered 24 points. That translates to about 37 points if Ho-Sang were to play an 82 game NHL season. To put the point totals into perspective, forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Evgeny Kuznetsov each recorded 37 points in their rookie seasons, and Nikolaj Ehlers and Mikko Rantanen recorded 38 points. All four of those forwards find themselves slated in the top-six of their respective lineups, and each have the talent to be considered elite forwards.
The offense was never a question for Ho-Sang. It was always the 200-foot game that was in question, and what ultimately has him still in Bridgeport. However, he has only taken the ice for Isles head coach, Barry Trotz, in 10 games. There is reason to believe that he would have been the first call up had he not requested a trade and sat out for a few months, but now that he’s back, Trotz is the exact coach who could help transform his game.
The Islanders could use an offensive boost, and his playmaking ability brings that dynamic on the ice. Outside of the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier, the offense is few and far between. The hope is that Lamoriello could work something out by the trade deadline, but if Ho-Sang is not used as a trade chip, he could be the boost the team needs.
Speaking of, the trade deadline is seven days away, and if other NHL organizations are willing to overlook the off-ice situations, they would be receiving a talented offensive threat who just needs to be given the opportunity.
If Feb. 25 comes, and the young forward is still a part of the Islanders’ organization, it is entirely possible that given a chance, Ho-Sang could contribute to a struggling Islanders offense. And who knows, if he can’t find his way by 2021, maybe Seattle will give him a clean slate and select him in the NHL expansion draft.