The New York Islanders recalled Josh Ho-Sang prior to Monday’s shootout loss to the Penguins, and it seems Barry Trotz may finally be ready to see what the 22-year-old rookie can do.
It’s been four years since the Islanders drafted Ho-Sang 28th overall in the 2014 draft. Now, the talented forward finds himself at a crossroads in his professional career.
In the last four years, Ho-Sang has given the media more attention-grabbing sound bytes than they can transcribe, leaving everyone wondering how a forward so talented can continue to shoot himself in the foot over and over again?
When Ho-Sang was initially called up at the end of the 2016-17 season, the Islanders were in the midst of a resurgence. They were just coming off the firing of Jack Capuano in January 2017. Ho-Sang was a spark in the team’s offensive dynamic, as he racked up 10 points in his first 21 games.
Ho-Sang was in the starting lineup for the 2017-18 home opener, and he added another two goals and 12 points in 22 games. Ultimately, the Islanders opted to demote him in light of his defensive woes.
This, of course, sparked a series of comments to the press, which no doubt soured him in the eyes of former management. As the Islanders sunk in the standings later in the season, the situation appeared to be a personal grudge-match between Ho-Sang and management.
This season it seems that Ho-Sang’s relationships with new GM Lou Lamoriello and new coach Barry Trotz started out well. Both Trotz and Lamoriello praised his ability, but they also pointed out the need for him to address his defensive troubles—something the whole team needs to work on.
Ho-Sang came into training camp this season singing a similar tune to what he offered Brian Heyman of Newsday when asked about being recalled: “For me, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here.”
Heyman also approached the Isles’ brass about Ho-Sang’s recall this past Sunday. Trotz told Heyman that Ho-Sang has “made strides” in his game. Lamoriello offered similar praise, adding an important note in saying Ho-Sang is only here “as a depth player.”
While that sounds daunting for Ho-Sang’s NHL ice-time (as do Trotz’s comments to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple that practice lines may not even be used), it seems that he may simply be the Islanders’ best option for success.
Barry Trotz doesn’t rule out using Josh Ho-Sang on the 2nd power play, said there may be couple of additions for Detroit game, mentioned Kuhnhackl & Ho-Sang. #Isles
— Brian Heyman (@bheyman99) December 14, 2018
The Islanders are not an offensively-challenged team on paper, and they’ve posted a 4-4-2 record in their last 10 games. However, since November 26, scoring issues reminiscent of years past have resurfaced.
In their last eight games, the Islanders have been outscored 22-14. In that same sample, they are a miserable 1/21 on the power play and have killed 14 of 19 penalties (73.6 percent), allowing at least one power-play goal in five of the last eight games.
Now, on the eve of the Islanders game against the Detroit Red Wings, Trotz has been mulling the idea of slotting in Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier on the second power-play unit, replacing both Cal Clutterbuck and Johnny Boychuk.
Trotz promised that practice changes aren’t guaranteed to show up in a game. But in a tight Metropolitan division, the Islanders know they need to beat this funk ASAP.
Ho-Sang is no savior, but he’s the Islanders best and most immediate option to pull away from recent trends. A crafty playmaker and a special-team weapon, Ho-Sang has the opportunity to provide the same spark in the Islanders’ offense that he showed when he first emerged.
Hopefully this time it’s in a more permanent role.