Josh Ho-Sang’s playmaking ability has never been questioned. It’s been an inability to adapt his unique talents to a structured system that has kept the 2014 first-round pick from securing a full-time NHL role.
Making the Islanders’ opening night roster may be difficult, given the intense competition and the number of returning veterans, but Ho-Sang said he believes he now understands how to fit his game into coach Barry Trotz’s system.
He played in his second preseason game on Friday night against the Red Wings in Detroit and had a second assist on Derick Brassard’s goal in the third period. Anthony Beauvillier scored late in the third to send the game to overtime and scored again 32 seconds into OT to give the Islanders a 4-3 victory.
“I feel like I understand how to generate offense more this year than I did last year,” said Ho-Sang, 23, who had a goal and an assist in 10 games for the Islanders last season and has seven goals and 17 assists in 53 career NHL games. “I just came back and it seems a lot easier. It’s like, ‘Whoa, I actually get it now.’ ”
Trotz’s system has a defense-first reputation, but Ho-Sang said it’s “actually a really offensive system if you do it right because you get a lot of turnovers and you’re getting a lot of odd-man rushes.”
The right wing said he believes the Islanders will score more this season — they were 21st last season with 228 goals — because of that comfort level.
The difficult part, Ho-Sang said, is the responsibility the system places upon the wings.
“I would say wingers have more responsibilities in this system than any system I’ve played,” he said. “I can only imagine how weird it is for guys who are older and have been playing wing their whole life, and all of a sudden Barry has put this onus on the wingers to be engaged basically at all times, which is not something that is common.”
Trotz said he wants to see how Ho-Sang implements the details from practices into game situations. He added that he sees Ho-Sang understanding how to play with the team’s system more “rather than playing on instinct.”
The system breaks down, Trotz said, when a player freelances. Instead of each player handling his responsibility, the others are trying to figure out how to cover up the gaps.
“Guys that are out-of-the-box thinkers, like Josh, they bring a unique skill set,’’ Trotz said, “but he has to realize he has to come closer a little bit to the norm.”
Notes & quotes: Trotz said he expects Cal Clutterbuck, who had offseason back surgery, to make his preseason debut either Saturday night at New Jersey or against the Red Wings at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Monday night. Trotz said Josh Bailey should play his first preseason game in either of those two . . . Top pick Simon Holmstrom, who missed the start of training camp with a sore ankle, could play his first preseason game on Saturday. “I don’t think I’ve come up to the level I want to be at,” Holmstrom said. “I think [Friday’s] practice was on the way there, but I’m still not there.”