Whatever the future holds for the Islanders, starting with this airtight playoff race, it’s clearer than ever that Josh Ho-Sang is not part of any long-term organizational plans.
The team announced on Friday that the mercurial former first-round pick, who has seven goals and 17 assists in 53 games for the Islanders since former general manager Garth Snow selected him 28th overall in 2014, has been reassigned to the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate in San Antonio.
Ho-Sang, 24, once was supposed to be the answer to any production problems. The slick-skating playmaker has shown a deft touch with the puck in the offensive zone.
But he never earned any coaching staff’s full trust with his defensive game, and some of his off-the-ice actions and comments have irked management. He overslept on the first day of his first training camp and Snow immediately sent him back to his junior hockey team.
Though Ho-Sang remains under contract to the Islanders, loaning him to another NHL organization certainly seems to have an air of finality to his career with this franchise. The right wing will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this offseason after playing on a one-year, two-way contract signed as an RFA last summer.
Ho-Sang, who has three goals and seven assists in 16 games for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, did not join the Sound Tigers until mid-December after requesting a trade when he did not make the NHL roster out of training camp. President and GM Lou Lamoriello told Ho-Sang not to report to Bridgeport at that time.
When the Islanders looked to Bridgeport for roster reinforcements on the wing this season, first-rounders Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows both got auditions. Those two, and quite possibly Simon Holmstrom, selected 23rd overall in 2019, seemingly have passed Ho-Sang in the organization’s prospect hierarchy.
Ho-Sang has a chance to play more meaningful games for San Antonio because Bridgeport is last in the 31-team AHL and out of the playoff hunt. The Rampage are still on the playoff fringe in the AHL’s Western Conference.
The Islanders will face the NHL-leading Bruins on Saturday afternoon at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, with the organization retiring four-time Stanley Cup winner and current team television analyst Butch Goring’s No. 91 preceding the game.
The team, coming off Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime loss at St. Louis, did not practice on Friday. Though Jean-Gabriel Pageau has scored twice in two games since being acquired from the Senators before Monday’s trade deadline and subsequently signing a six-year, $30 million extension, goals are still at a premium for the Islanders. They could not hold a 2-0 first-period lead against the Blues, who tied the score late in regulation.
“We just needed a little bit from everybody,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re getting there.”
The Islanders, who were 23rd in the NHL with 181 goals but tied for 13th with a goal differential of plus-10 entering Friday’s play, hold the Eastern Conference’s top wild-card spot and were helped Friday night when the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Rangers lost.