In a game that didn’t feature much offense, Josh Ho-Sang was in the middle of whatever the Islanders did generate on Friday night in Bridgeport against the Rangers. No. 66 dangled, he weaved, he drew defenders to him and dished — your eyes are always on him when Ho-Sang is on the ice.
There’s still plenty for Ho-Sang to digest about being an NHLer, with just 21 games under his belt. But another strong training camp has the 21-year-old in position to make an impact this season.
He’s also just happy to still be with the NHLers in training camp. The Islanders made their big wave of camp cuts on Saturday and, unlike last year, Ho-Sang is still among the group who will be in Columbus on Oct. 6.
“I didn’t make it past this point so this is a happy day for me,” Ho-Sang said after Saturday’s practice, which was exclusively devoted to special teams. “I’m achieving my goals slowly and I just want to keep focusing on that.”
Doug Weight pared down to five forward lines on Saturday and barring injury, that group of 15 forwards will likely be reduced by only two before the season opener against the Blue Jackets in 12 days.
Ho-Sang has done quite a bit to bolster his case to be in the lineup opening night. On Friday, he had one shift late in a one-goal game when he created a couple scoring chances, didn’t exactly hustle back to break up a Rangers rush late in his shift but found enough energy to get going on a breakaway that was turned aside.
But even with a few 200-foot game flaws, Weight has plenty of time for Ho-Sang.
“Oh, I got time for him,” Weight said. “And that’s because he’s a good kid, tremendously talented and he plays with no fear and he plays hard. He’ll battle in the corner, creates chances and he wants to learn. Right before he got his breakaway, he was dangling around, looked like he was out there for six minutes on the back check. Looked like he couldn’t take another step and then he’s off because he sees a chance. He created tonight, he played hard, he was better doing some things the way we wanted him to do them. So yeah, I got lots of time for him.”
Whether that means lots of ice time for Ho-Sang depends certainly on what he can help create. Ho-Sang skated Saturday in practice with familiar linemates — he had Anthony Beauvillier on the opposite wing and Brock Nelson in the middle for a fair number of his 21 games late last season and Weight clearly liked what he saw, keeping that trio together as the Isles whittled down to a near-23 man roster.
“I love playing with those two,” Ho-Sang said. “Beau is a little energizer bunny, he’s amazing and I think people haven’t even seen how good Beau is and I’m excited to see him explode and see him become a top player in the league. And Nellie’s just Nellie — he’s unreal. He’s one of my favorite players to play with. He’s trigger happy, he’s got one of the best shots I’ve ever seen and he’s really good at getting into position. And he’s a really nice guy on top of that. It’s fun to play with people who are good people that just want to score and win. Being on a line like that is obviously ideal.”