Spitfires' Ho-Sang makes name with flair for dramatic

Thursday, 05.01.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014 NHL Draft - Philadelphia - June 27-28, 2014

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Spitfires' Ho-Sang makes name with flair for dramatic
Windsor Spitfires forward Joshua Ho-Sang has a unique heritage and is creating an identity all his own on the ice with his speed, creativity and flair for the dramatic.

Windsor Spitfires forward Joshua Ho-Sang won't ever forget the day he put a smile on the face of winning honorary coach Jason Spezza following a picturesque move for the ages.

He was only 15 years old.

"For that moment in time, I had one of the best players in the NHL in awe, and that's something I'll never forget," Ho-Sang told NHL.com.

The smooth approach and countless dekes before roofing his attempt inside the short side post proved to be the clincher in a 10-9 shootout victory at the inaugural Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Cup at Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, in August 2011. The coaches for the game were Spezza and Luke Schenn.

Ho-Sang out 15 games to begin 2014-15

It wasn't the type of finish Windsor Spitfires forward Joshua Ho-Sang envisioned a few months short of hearing his name called at the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Still, his ill-advised contact from behind on London Knights defenseman Zach Bell in Game 4 of his team's Western Conference first round series on March 27 that earned him a 15-game suspension to open the 2014-15 Ontario Hockey League season shouldn't deny him a relatively high draft selection.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Ho-Sang won't be able to show his offensive stuff until almost a month into the OHL season after closing out 2013-14 with team highs in assists and points. He is No. 22 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 draft.

The OHL suspended Ho-Sang after reviewing the incident that occurred early in the second period and caused Bell to crash into the boards and sustain a broken leg. Ho-Sang was given a two-minute minor for holding on the play; he did apologize for Bell being hurt. Windsor was swept by London in the best-of-7 series.

"You have a player that pushes another player from behind causing him to lose his balance," OHL vice president Ted Baker told reporters. "Unfortunately for both players, it results in a serious injury; therefore, the accountability was to Josh."

Baker told The Windsor Star that if Bell had not been injured on the play there would have been no suspension.

"If Zach falls and gets up, we're not having this conversation," Baker said. "We're not saying Josh Ho-Sang intended to injure Zach Bell. Unfortunately, his actions resulted in one."

There is no appeal process in the OHL for a suspension under 20 games.

-- Mike G. Morreale

"I used to do it all the time on breakaways; it was my bread and butter," Ho-Sang said. "At first I didn't know what to do and was hoping it would go in. [Spezza's] reaction to me was just as important as the goal."

The multiple moves to the net are nothing new to Ho-Sang, who at a very young age began watching video of one of the most dynamic puck-carrying forwards to ever play in the NHL, Denis Savard. Former Chicago Blackhawks right wing Steve Larmer was the one who told Ho-Sang about his old teammate.

"I'm friends with Larmer's son and he was playing on my summer hockey team, and I remember doing something and Steve coming over to me and telling me that I reminded him of Denis Savard," Ho-Sang said. "I had no idea who Denis Savard was. He told me to go home and watch video of him.

"I did a search on the Internet when I got home and saw this one where Denis got the puck, skated into his zone before curling back the other way. He spun and began heading into the opposing end, read a defender wide, took the puck with one hand on his stick, went through the defender's legs and scored."

Needless to say, Ho-Sang was a fan for life.

"There are pieces you can take from every NHL player's game because they are there for a reason, but why be like everyone else," Ho-Sang said. "Who was Patrick Kane before Patrick Kane? Some say [Sidney] Crosby is like [Wayne] Gretzky, but he's not, he's Crosby. They have their own identity, and that's what makes great players great; that's what makes them unpredictable."

When Ho-Sang was flying around the ice, generating chances and creating offense for the Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League this season, he also had that unpredictable edge.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound right-hand shot has a genuine flair for the dramatic. In addition to watching Savard any chance he gets, his most memorable NHL moment was when then-rookie Alex Ovechkin scored against the Phoenix Coyotes while sliding on his back with one hand on the stick in January 2006.

Ho-Sang finished tied for the team lead in goals (32), and was tops in assists (53) and points (85) in 67 regular-season games. He also had a plus-26 rating, and scored eight power-play goals and one shorthanded goal. He produced five goals and 18 points in 11 games in the month of February when he went on an eight-game point streak (five goals, 17 points).

At a time when NHL teams might also be looking for players exhibiting some confidence and moves in the shootout, Ho-Sang scored two goals on three attempts in the tiebreaker this season.

A first-round pick (No. 5) of the Spitfires in 2012, Ho-Sang has 46 goals and 129 points in 130 career OHL games spanning two seasons. He is No. 22 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.

"I like to play a patient, dynamic, explosive game," Ho-Sang said. "I'm always trying to be precise with my passing, and I take pride in everything when it comes to the offensive side of my game. My defensive side is something I really have been working on this year, trying to find that happy place."

Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said Ho-Sang possesses Patrick Kane-like quickness and touch.

"I know what people have been saying about me, 'He does too much,' but I want to find that very aggressive medium," Ho-Sang said. "I have the drive to be the best every day."

For that, he credits his family. Born in Toronto and now living in Thornhill, Ontario, Ho-Sang has a Jamaican father, Chilean mother, and Chinese-born great grandfather.

"My dad came here when he was around 10 and my mom when she was 12, and honestly, they didn't come here with a lot but they have given me everything," Ho-Sang said. "I have an opportunity to make my life even better than their lives were."

Though Ho-Sang is determined to one day play professional hockey, he also feels he could do even more as a minority player in the NHL.

"I would just like to be a voice for youngsters at some point," he said. "There are a lot of misconceptions about people; what their lives are like and who they are. It's pretty obvious the last name on my jersey is of Asian descent, and I've had Chinese people come up to me and say, 'Good job and keep going,' and black people come up and say, 'You're doing us proud.' Those are great moments."

Now, he's hoping to hear his name in the early stages of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, June 27-28.

"You can't really complain about being in the mix as a first-round pick … that's insane," Ho-Sang said. "Do I feel I can move up higher [on Central Scouting's list] and prove I belong? Yes. I have the ability to do that. I think as a hockey player, the sky is the limit for me. I believe in myself and there's a core group that believes in me."