In the latest chapter of the Joshua Ho-Sang saga, on Monday morning the New York Islanders announced their latest cuts to the roster, trimming their number of bodies to 28, and Ho-Sang was among the casualties sent to the Islanders’ American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport.
Lamoriello on Ho-Sang: “Thought he worked hard, gave us everything he had... He just needs to go to the minors, he’s got ability, go there and get over all these issues that I haven’t seen, that transpired in the past. He’s been excellent in camp. Just go grow and get better.”— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) September 24, 2018
He had no goals in two pre-season games for the Islanders. Despite attracting a positive, albeit slightly odd, review from his general manager, Lou Lamoriello.
Ho-Sang hasn’t had the smoothest entry into the National Hockey League. Reported issues with his character have followed him since Junior hockey. The 22-year-old caused a stir when he wore Mario Lemieux’s hallowed 66 jersey — Mario was cool with it, for the record — but the Islanders’ first-round pick in 2014 didn’t exactly light up the league.
But he’s shown enough flashes to prove he still has an NHL future, and has vented his frustrations about his lack of NHL playing time. In 43 career NHL games, Ho-Sang has six goals and 22 points, splitting time in the AHL as well.
This year could have been different for a 66-less Ho-Sang, but he ultimately didn’t do enough to crack the Islanders’ roster. The team has lost its leader in John Tavares, and has responded with a number of acquisitions. In addition to players like Jan Kovar and Valtteri Filppula, the Isles added a number of depth forwards in Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Martin and Ross Johnston.
With the Isles pushing Ho-Sang to the minors, the youngster seemingly has his work cut out for him trying to crack his team’s lineup; a lineup that could potentially field the following as its bottom six:
If you’re Marc Bergevin, why not take a flier on Ho-Sang? With him not in the immediate plans of the Islanders, any general manager should take a look at Ho-Sang.
He has some offensive upside and potential, and the Montreal Canadiens could be in a position to use him. He’s a quick winger with the ability to generate offence. (Note the quality of his teammates and ice time below, while looking at his primary and secondary assist rates.)
Montreal’s bottom six objectively looks more talented than what the Islanders presently have, which could help bring out his offence better than playing alongside Johnston and Martin (but surprisingly not Casey Cizikas). Ho-Sang could work out with a fast Matthew Peca on the fourth line, or with a defensively responsible Tomas Plekanec on a third line. Both lines would also feature other offensive options like Charles Hudon or Artturi Lehkonen as well.
Of course, Ho-Sang could easily start the season in the American Hockey League with Laval. The Canadiens do have a number of wingers, but they’re mostly of NHL quality. Outside of Nikita Scherbak, who is still a prime candidate to make the Habs roster, the Rocket’s right-wingers may be Alexandre Grenier, William Bitten and Antoine Waked.
Excluding the six-year AHL vet Grenier, Waked played 63 games in the AHL last year, while Bitten should be playing his first pro season in Laval this fall. Ho-Sang has 100 games of AHL experience and should easily be a top-line winger for the Rocket, if need be.
Ho-Sang being stashed in the minors should mean his trade value won’t be nearly as large as it could be a first-rounder. The Canadiens could always flip a more experienced veteran that could be of more use to Lamoriello’s club.
Byron Froese plus a later-round draft pick is one option. There’s also 2013 first-round pick Michael McCarron, a centre whose place in the Habs’ pecking order falls with every new centre developing in the system. Because of his size and build, he may be much more appealing to Barry Trotz and the Islanders.
The Canadiens could put together a deal for Ho-Sang that could be relatively inexpensive, if other teams haven’t ramped up their offers. Ho-Sang could benefit from a change of scenery and the Canadiens organization could offer that second chance to a player who is yet to reach his potential.