LAS VEGAS – There have been several stops and starts in Josh Ho-Sang’s path to the NHL. Some of them were based on how the Islanders have evaluated his play. Sometimes the eminently-gifted but mercurial right wing applied the brakes himself with his actions or words.
But after seeing Ho-Sang score his first goal in three games since being recalled from Bridgeport (AHL) while, more importantly, playing a responsible defensive game, Islanders coach Barry Trotz can envision Ho-Sang providing a long-term, dynamic edge to a lineup craving more offensive talent.
“He doesn’t need to change his game,” Trotz said of the 22-year-old Ho-Sang. “If he continues down that path of playing the right way, he’ll have a chance to be a regular guy, night in and night out. He’s a high-end talent. We’re trying to make him into a high-end player.”
The Islanders (17-12-4) have won three straight for the first time since a season-high five-game winning streak from Oct. 27-Nov. 3. They were off on Wednesday before facing the Golden Knights on Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena in the third leg of a four-game trip.
Ho-Sang, from a sharp angle on the left, had the Islanders’ first goal in Tuesday night’s 3-1 win at Arizona, his first NHL goal since Nov. 22, 2017, though that was a span of just 14 games.
“It feels really good to score again, just get that good feeling,” said Ho-Sang, recalled on Dec. 9 and playing on Valtteri Filppula’s third line with Leo Komarov.
Ho-Sang, selected 28th overall in 2014, has seven goals and 16 assists in 46 NHL games since making his Islanders debut on March 2, 2017.
Trotz publicly has pushed Ho-Sang to shoot more and bluntly said the two goals Ho-Sang has scored in 26 games for the Sound Tigers this season were not enough, even though he’s added 20 assists.
But Trotz also acknowledged the player he is seeing now is different from the one he first viewed during the Islanders’ summer development camp and through training camp.
“His wall play has been much improved,” Trotz said. “He’s playing with a little more poise in those areas of decision, at the blue lines. He’s made good hockey plays and he’s worked. He’s playing the game the right way.”
Still, Ho-Sang said learning to curtail his offensive instincts at times and concentrate on his defensive play has not always come naturally.
“It’s been hard,” Ho-Sang said. “I think [Tuesday] I probably felt the most comfortable and the biggest thing is the team first. I’d rather sacrifice my offense for a little bit more defense, especially with the way we’re rolling right now. When we’re up 3-1, we don’t need more goals. We just need to keep the puck out.”