BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Both Fairfield and Fairfield Prep have banners listing their state championships hanging at Wonderland of Ice, and the retired No. 18 worn in high school by both former NHL-playing brothers Ted and Chris Drury is also on display. Absent a dressing room, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ equipment bags were strewn about in the lobby as the players practiced.
In other words, the NHL this ain’t.
But the AHL is the next stop for defenseman Thomas Hickey, right wing Josh Ho-Sang and center Tanner Fritz after the trio cleared waivers on Tuesday and the Islanders re-assigned them to Bridgeport. The three did not practice on Tuesday and the Sound Tigers are off on Wednesday so the three are expected to join the team on the ice on Thursday.
“I’m selfishly very happy they’re still with us,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said after Tuesday’s practice at East Meadow. “The decisions on those guys were very difficult. Those guys are definitely in our mix.”
Fritz, 28, has played parts of four seasons with the Sound Tigers and 42 games for the Islanders, while the mercurial Ho-Sang, 23, the 28th overall pick in 2014, has spent the better parts of the last three seasons with Bridgeport, unable to translate his wonderous skating and stickhandling ability into a full-time NHL job. He has seven goals and 17 assists in 53 games with the Islanders.
“Josh is one of the best players I’ve ever seen with the puck on his stick,” defenseman David Quenneville said. “He’s so electric. The plays he can make, the passes he can make, I haven’t seen a lot of other guys do.”
“He took a step in the right direction,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson added of Ho-Sang’s training camp performance and newfound attention to defensive detail. “If he comes in and buys into the team system, he’ll be a huge asset to our organization.”
But this will be a different experience for Hickey, 30, who has dressed in 449 games for the Islanders since 2013, when he last played in the AHL. He is in the second season of a four-year, $10 million deal but lost his spot in the Islanders’ top six when he suffered a concussion and Devon Toews was brought up from Bridgeport in December.
Then he lost his NHL roster spot at this year’s training camp as the Islanders opted to retain 19-year-old Noah Dobson rather than return the 12th overall pick in 2018 to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“Anyone that has that kind of experience, or is that quality of player like him, the leadership just kind of naturally fits into the role,” Thompson said. “If you do your job, the NHL comes calling at any given point. Your focus is just doing your job and let the chips fall where they may.”
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