Just how effective can New York Islanders forward Joshua Ho-Sang be in the National Hockey League? Has the young prospect matured?Fans who made the trek to Long Island’s Northwell Health Ice Center on Wednesday night were rewarded with the breathtaking talent of New York Islanders’ prospect Joshua Ho-Sang.
The polarizing 20-year-old notched three assists at the Isles’ annual Blue and White Scrimmage and reaffirmed what many had previously surmised: Ho-Sang will make the team in the Fall.
Ho-Sang possesses an undeniable talent but the real question is whether or not his raw talent will translate into NHL production.
Who is Ho-Sang?
Ho-Sang is an immensely talented forward with tremendous offensive prowess.
He owns remarkable vision and instincts, and is a legitimate play maker that constantly dishes off passes without looking at his targets.
The dynamics of the game always seem to change when he’s on the ice, as he’s explosive and full of energy. Ho-Sang is a wizard with the puck and can skate by any given player if he steps on the gas.
Selected by the Isles in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Ho-Sang was considered by many to be a top-5 talent. The problem was always his maturity, which has plagued him time and time again.
What does this intriguing character mean? Well, Ho-Sang audaciously declared himself the best player in the draft before the event even began, inducing Isles GM Garth Snow to defend him, saying that, “They s— on me, too.”
Ho-Sang was traded by the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, which seems pretty benign until reading the reaction of his former coach: “We might not be a better team in the standings because of [trading Ho-Sang], but we’re definitely a better team within our four walls and it’s only going to help for the future.”
With a chance to make the NHL squad on the line, Ho-Sang notoriously showed up late to the first day of Training Camp last season and was promptly sent home.
Character concerns aren’t the only issues though. Ho-Sang has to bulk up a little more and prove that the occasional errant pass won’t be a detriment to the team.
Overall, Ho-Sang is a talented, confident and versatile forward with tremendous offensive upside.
Will his talent translate?
This is where it gets tricky — and where scouts are split down-the-middle.
Some see improvements in his character, and are willing to overlook some glaring weaknesses. They believe he can develop into a consistent play maker in the big leagues; someone with the potential to reach half the century mark in assists every season.
Others are more cynical, however. They believe that Ho-Sang hasn’t learned from his mistakes, and that he will be a liability in the defensive zone.
This school of thought centers around the belief that Ho-Sang has too many problems — both on- and off-the-ice — to be successful in the NHL.
So just how much of an impact will Ho-Sang make with the Islanders’ club?
That’s the million-dollar question that has been plaguing scouts ever since the inception of the Ontario Hockey League.
However, Behind the Net, an advanced statistics website, did some extensive research on the topic of production conversion. While this is far from conclusive (if it was, then Rob Schremp wouldn’t have been the bust he was), it’s a start:
Based on this curve, Ho-Sang would record roughly 25 points in 2016-17 (again assuming he makes the team). However, it’s evident that he’s capable of so much more, even though my basis for saying that is a game in which a handful of undrafted players faced off against a bunch of late-round draft picks and European non-factors.
The on-ice problem with Ho-Sang is that he evokes memories of Kirill Kabanov.
In Juniors, he constantly has the puck on his blade, and is a possession machine. Will he be able to sustain that against men who just happen to be the fastest, quickest and most talented in the world?
Will he be able to prove his foot speed is NHL speed? Will he be able to make the transition from dominating at the junior level to dominating at the professional level?
His 2016-17 campaign will be crucial in determining the answers.