Josh Ho-Sang won the fanbase over after nearly saving the 2016-17 season. However, things have changed and it might be time for the New York Islanders to move on from the 22-year-old.
It was March 2017 and somehow the New York Islanders, a team written off as dead since October, were playing meaningful games as they tried to keep their playoff hopes alive. A coaching change in mid-January was definitely a factor to this remarkable turnaround, but so was a player recalled from their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, at the Trade Deadline.
Barclays Center had a different atmosphere. Fans crammed inside the team store desperately searching the shelves for anything with the number 66 on it. Josh Ho-Sang had only been recalled a few weeks ago and so there was nothing with his name or number on it yet.
That didn’t stop fans as they paid extra to order custom jerseys with Ho-Sang’s name and infamous number choice: 66. After each period and each game, the amount of Ho-Sang gear in the stands multiplied at a fascinating rate. The crowd chanted his name to the tune of the ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ and cheered the second he got the puck on his stick.
Oh how so much has changed.
The Islanders didn’t make the playoffs, missing out by just one point. After being recalled, the 28th overall pick in 2014 played in 21 games and nearly brought the Isles back from the dead. Opponents could not solve him. He could receive a drop pass in his own zone and second later have it behind the opposition’s goal-line without even being touched. From a numbers standpoint, the at-the-time 21-year-old put up four goals and 10 assists in his 21 games.
Many consider him to be a fixture for the 2017-18 Islanders but things took a turn for the worse. Ho-Sang made the opening-night roster but was a healthy scratch for the team’s first game of the season. The Islanders lost that game 5-0 and he made his season debut the night after. In his season debut, also the team’s home-opener, he set up Josh Bailey for the eventual go-ahead goal in a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
As the early stages of the season carried on, Ho-Sang continued to go in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. When in the lineup, Ho-Sang produced with four assists in six games. However, Ho-Sang had a rough game against the New York Rangers and was sent down to Bridgeport shortly after.
When he returned on emergency-recall for a game against the St. Louis Blues on November 11th, he responded with his first goal of the season. Ho-Sang lasted another month and change with the big club but on Dec. 15, after going six games without a point, he was banished to Bridgeport for what would turn out to be the rest of the season.
So from Dec. 15 on, Ho-Sang played in the AHL, with his final NHL numbers coming out to be 22 games, two goals and 10 assists. At the AHL level, Ho-Sang played 50 games and had eight goals and 31 points. His 23 assists were second on the Sound Tigers and overall, his 31 points were sixth on the team.
While in the NHL his 12 points in 22 games was 0.55 points per game which is equivalent to 45 points over an 82 games season. 45 points would’ve been sixth on the team, a team that lacked offense from their bottom-six. You could argue that Ho-Sang wouldn’t have maintained that pace but I’d argue he could’ve done even better.
So what’s the problem? Why didn’t Ho-Sang stay up with the big club?
Yes, he had a bad game every once in awhile but he hasn’t even played enough games to be considered a rookie. Also, as he points out in an interview with Arthur Staple of The Athletic, the Islanders were one of the worst defensive teams of this decade, how could it all be his fault.
“I know they’re working hard. But I got sent down for defence and what are they in goals against in the NHL? I only played (22) games up there this year. I don’t think it’s my fault. They really painted it like it was my fault at the beginning of the year and I didn’t like that.”
It seems as if Ho-Sang and the Islanders management don’t see eye-to-eye. The Islanders organization likes to throw the word accountability around a lot but as Ho-Sang also mentions in the interview, it really appeared as if he was the only one being held accountable.
“There were some comments about me when I wasn’t in the NHL, so I wasn’t affecting the team, but they were focused on my defence and my turnovers when… Look, if you’re going to send me down because of defence, it’d be nice to see other people be held accountable. That’s all.”
Two years into Josh Ho-Sang’s professional career, the question now arises: Is it time for the New York Islanders-Josh Ho-Sang relationship to come to an end?
Ho-Sang has one more year on his entry-level contract and for any team interested in a low-risk, high-reward project, Ho-Sang could definitely be it.
His raw offensive talent should be enough for any team to take a chance on him if the price is right. Who’s a good trade partner and what could the Isles get in return? Two teams come to mind right away.
The first team is the San Jose Sharks and they are in an interesting situation. When they made the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, many said it was their last chance for a while: Their core was aging, injury-plagued players, etc. However, they have done a good job maintaining a competitive team as demonstrated by a trip to the second-round in this year’s playoffs. They also have a lot of cap space (more than $14 million not including the expected salary cap increase according to CapFriendly) and even if they do re-sign Trade Deadline acquisition Evander Kane, they still might have what it takes to go after John Tavares if he hits Free Agency.
What I am trying to get at here is that they’re good and have the potential to get better.
The Sharks already have a pretty solid bottom-six with young and effective forwards which is why a trade for Ho-Sang is a low-risk, high-reward.
Why San Jose? Ho-Sang has been criticized for his attitude from a relatively young age and the same can be said about Kane but look how he turned out playing with the Sharks.
What would a fair offer be for a former first round-pick, four years removed from his draft, who has proved he can play at the NHL level? I propose a third-round pick to start (the Sharks don’t have one this year but they have one in 2019 as of now). Then, a conditional second-rounder in 2020 with the condition being based on if he has played, I don’t know, let’s say 82 games over the two seasons he was in San Jose?
So basically, you’re trading an AHL player who has done well in limited NHL appearances for a third-round pick. If he becomes a regular with the big club, the Isles will also get a second-rounder. That seems fair.
It’s definitely not an ideal return for the Islanders but if they want to trade him, that’s likely the most they’d get. Keeping him in Bridgeport has really hurt his trade value and so does every quote that comes out from either him or a member of the Islanders organization.
There would likely be many teams reaching out to take a try at Ho-Sang but another team that stands out is the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks had what is considered to be a Modern Day Dynasty from 2009-2015, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015, while making it to the Western Conference Final in 2009 and 2014.
Now, like San Jose, they have a core group of guys who aren’t getting any younger. On top of that, they’re all locked up to expensive, long-term deals.
Still, on his entry-level deal, Ho-Sang is a cheap option for a team that embraces his kind of game and desperately needs some flare added to their lineup. We saw Chicago try for something like this when they traded 27-year-old Richard Panik to the Arizona Coyotes for a 22-year-old Anthony Duclair.
They’re clearly looking to start a youth movement in Chicago after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 while working around some of the long-term deals they dealt out to guys like Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Perhaps Ho-Sang is the answer.
The return in a Ho-Sang trade with the Blackhawks is perhaps the same you would see in a trade with San Jose or any team for that matter. He’s a fan favorite and so it might be easy to say he’s a superstar in the making but to other teams, he is a player with offensive potential but a player who has not been able to make the jump.
No matter what the return, it might be best for the New York Islanders and Josh Ho-Sang to say goodbye.