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Ho-Sang aims to make Islanders roster this season

by Kristen Nelson / NHL.com

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Midway through the second period of the New York Islanders' annual Blue & White scrimmage at Barclays Center on Wednesday, Joshua Ho-Sang came off the ice and sat directly on forward Connor Graham's lap.

Seemingly a little confused, Graham smiled and allowed his lifelong friend to rest for a few seconds before the two burst into laughter and Ho-Sang found a vacant spot on the bench.

"I don't think you should do anything without having fun, it's kind of pointless," Ho-Sang said. "I've known Connor for almost my whole life. Being able to make jokes like that kind of lightens the mood."

That lighthearted approach is how Ho-Sang, a first-round pick (No. 28) at the 2014 NHL Draft, is carrying himself through the duration of Islanders development camp. Ho-Sang signed a three-year entry level contract with New York last October but was returned to the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League.

Now he's back at camp ready to prove to the staff why he should be in the NHL this season.

Although his White team lost 8-3 in the scrimmage, Ho-Sang, who assisted on each of the goals, continued to have fun throughout the skills competition when he attempted a unique, yet unsuccessful shot in the shootout portion. While approaching goalie Eamon McAdam, Ho-Sang dropped to his stomach, passed the puck from his stick to his hand and back to his blade before hitting it into McAdam's pads.

The eccentric shootout attempt and the antics on the bench were just a glimpse into the confidence Ho-Sang has each time he's on the ice. He put on a full exhibition of his skill set to the 6,311 in attendance Wednesday by showing off his speed, puck-handling skills and a little spin-o-rama backhand pass that baited McAdam out of the crease to allow 2015 first-round pick Anthony Beauvillier to score.

Ho-Sang, 19, is aware that his buoyancy sometimes crosses the line in the eyes of many hockey coaches and fans (Windsor traded him to the Niagara IceDogs last November), often drawing criticism, but his goal is to demonstrate to the rest of the hockey world that general manager Garth Snow didn't make a mistake in drafting him.

Since being selected by the Islanders, Ho-Sang said there haven't been any issues with his attitude or playing style.

"They always talk to me and they tell me exactly how they feel," he said. "That's all you can ask for, especially when they're in a position of teaching and helping you get to that next level. You just want them to help you and talk to you, and New York has done that tenfold for me. The conversations I've had with the coaches and trainers, they just want me to get better and that's their only goal."

Fellow Islander prospect Michael Dal Colle said he's known Ho-Sang since they were 8 or 9 years old and feels it is unfair to reproachfully tag him with a bad attitude.

"I've known Josh for a long time," Dal Colle said. "Sometimes people just like to read in the media and they get a bad rep from what they read. But he's a great kid. I think he's going to prove a lot of people wrong."

Fans vocally supported Ho-Sang during the scrimmage Wednesday, aware of how the speedy forward could be a future asset for the Islanders. Their cheer repeating his name echoed through the Islanders' new home several times while Ho-Sang was in the midst of creating heavy offensive pressure.

"When the fans show you love like that, you definitely appreciate it," Ho-Sang said. "You're giving them something to look forward to, and that's what I'm trying to do. I think that some people said Garth took a chance on me, so every time I'm on the ice I try to prove him right."

Brooklyn creates a perfect atmosphere for Ho-Sang's unique character, he said. A sundry combination of ethnicities, including Jamaican, Russian, German and Chinese, Ho-Sang is hoping to someday become an ambassador for diversity in hockey. He already saw a "heartwarming" mix of races in the stands Wednesday.

Before becoming an example for diversity in the NHL, though, Ho-Sang knows he needs to make the team first.

Although this is his second chance to work with the Islanders staff, having participated in rookie camp last year, Ho-Sang isn't ready to say this time around is any easier than the first.

"I definitely have some nerves, because every time I step out on the ice I have a purpose. I really want to try to make this team," said Ho-Sang, who had 14 goals and 48 assists in 49 games for Niagara last season. "I wouldn't say that it gets easier, but my passion continues to grow for that opportunity to play for New York."

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