CHICAGO -- Doug Weight has heard the cries from Islander fans. As yet another call-up from Bridgeport, big winger Ross Johnston, makes his season debut here on Saturday, the cry went up again:
Where is Josh Ho-Sang?
The Isles’ talented young wing is still toiling away in the AHL, where he has two goals and five assists in 13 games since he was sent down on Dec. 14, along with one healthy scratch. Since then, the Islanders have had numerous forward injuries, but Ho-Sang has not been brought back.
“[The fans] can be upset he’s not here,” Weight told Newsday on Saturday morning. “They see his skill, they look at analytics. I understand that. But why did Tanner Fritz get an opportunity? Why did Steve Bernier come up right away? That is how you build your whole organization, with accountability. And there has to be accountability. There has to.”
Weight said Josh Bailey’s injury on Jan. 5 should have been the perfect opportunity for Ho-Sang to come back to the Islanders, where he began this season. But the Islanders organization — that’s GM Garth Snow, Weight (who is also an assistant GM), Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson and assistant GM Chris Lamoriello — didn’t see where Ho-Sang would have learned much since he wasn’t, in their view, working hard in the AHL.
“It’s a crying shame he’s not playing with John Tavares when Bails goes down,” Weight said. “We had six guys out. It was a perfect opportunity. And Josh should be upset with himself.
“Whether our view of the world is wrong is something we can argue later. But the fact is, we need to be able to look at how some guys are laying it on the line [in Bridgeport] and he’s a healthy scratch. So to go from that to the first lineup here, where is he learning from that? That’s a big, big part of this.”
The Islanders have not written Ho-Sang off by any means. When Snow drafted Ho-Sang 28th overall in 2014, there were several other teams that wouldn’t have taken Ho-Sang at all. The Islanders knew Ho-Sang was and is his own young man; if they wanted to wash their hands of him, it would have happened by now.
“It’s a good argument, we talk about it every day,” Weight said. “We’re not just sitting here burying the kid because we can. I like him, I like what he can bring to our team. Hopefully, if it’s two more games where he’s working, he’s executing, he’s got a great attitude, maybe it happens. There’s got to be onus on Josh here, too.”
‘Bland’ is beautiful for Pelech
Scott Mayfield described the style of guys like himself and Adam Pelech as “a bit bland,” without the flash and dash of fellow defenseman Nick Leddy. But Pelech in particular has started to shine with his meat-and-potatoes game, particularly since Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk left the lineup with injuries.
“You watch Leds skate the way he does, or [Sebastian] Aho with the way he handles the puck and those guys rightly get a lot of attention,” Mayfield said. “Guys like me and definitely Pelly don’t have the flash, but it’s important to have guys like us to be solid and not as noticeable out there.”
The Islanders haven’t been good in their own end since Dec. 1, two weeks before de Haan was lost for the year with a shoulder injury and three weeks before Boychuk went down with a lower-body injury that still has him sidelined.
But since de Haan’s injury on Dec. 16, Pelech has by far the best metrics of any Islanders defenseman. The Islanders have allowed 98 more shots on goal than they’ve taken at even strength since that date; Pelech is only a minus-5 in shots on goal. He’s also a plus-7 (12-5) in goals for while on the ice at even strength since Dec. 16, with the team at a minus-8 (33-41).
“He’s very heady out there, very smart and he understands the game really well,” John Tavares said of Pelech. “He uses his body well, a great stick that he uses to disrupt plays well, especially in our end. You start to see a little more confidence from him, his ice time is continuing to grow with those guys out and he’s really maximizing his potential.”
The Islanders locked Pelech up on a four-year deal at $1.6-million per in July. The length of that deal raised some eyebrows for an unproven player. But Pelech’s emergence during this rough patch may end up rewarding the Isles’ faith in the 23-year-old, who is showing he would be a good and seriously cheap second-pair defenseman in seasons to come.