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Ho-Sang focused on fresh start with Islanders

Maturing 22-year-old forward wants to learn, listen under new regime

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Joshua Ho-Sang has no interest in reflecting on last season. The New York Islanders forward has a healthy outlook and is eager for this fresh start.

"I think it's exciting for everyone here," Ho-Sang said after the Islanders opened rookie camp Friday. "It's the start of a new regime with a lot of success from the guys who are coming in. We're just hoping to follow their winning mentality and their winning ways."

The 22-year-old forward was referring to general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz, who are beginning their first seasons in New York after Lamoriello was named president of hockey operations May 22 and fired GM Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight on June 5. The changes could be especially beneficial for Ho-Sang, who was demoted to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on Dec. 15, 2017 and did not return. 

 

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"I don't really know what I needed," Ho-Sang said. "But I'm happy with the opportunity to get a fresh start, and I think everyone here is, not just me. I think that there is a lot of people who are looking to find a way to win and have success, and that's the most important thing. I think we're focused on that as a group on the whole and I think it's something that's very achievable." 

Ho-Sang had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 22 games for the Islanders last season prior to the demotion. New York was 17-12-3 at the time but finished 35-37-10, allowed an NHL high 293 goals and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season. 

In comments made to The Athletic on March 29, Ho-Sang felt he was being singled out.

"Yeah, I think it's pretty obvious," he said. "There were some comments about me when I wasn't in the NHL, so I wasn't affecting the team, but they were focused on my defense and my turnovers when … Look, if you're going to send me down because of defense, it'd be nice to see other people be held accountable. That's all."

When asked Friday if those feelings were simply a matter of frustrations boiling over, Ho-Sang wasn't interested in revisiting. 

"Yeah … I don't want to talk about that," Ho-Sang said.

"There's a lot of people who care what's going on, what's going on with you. I had to become stronger last year mentally, and for me it was a great learning experience. I've never had a year like I did last year. It's not even to do with hockey, it was just a hard year for me. 

"I'm happy. I feel happy and healthier and I'm excited for the year."

And focused on moving forward under his new bosses. Given their success elsewhere -- Lamoriello won the Stanley Cup three times as GM of the New Jersey Devils (1995, 2000, 2003) and Trotz won it with the Washington Capitals last season -- Ho-Sang is eager to learn from them.

"I'm excited," said Ho-Sang, a first-round pick (No. 28) at the 2014 NHL Draft. "Lou's won a Stanley Cup, and that's what I want to do. It's easy to listen to him because he knows how to do it.

"They've just been very straightforward with me. They've been tremendous in working with me and talking to me. I really don't want to get into what they've talked to me about, but it's all been positive. Every conversation that I've had with them since the moment they became part of the organization has just been teaching. That's something that I'm really trying to take in. I'm taking everything that they say and implementing it into my daily routines, on-ice routines at the rink … everything. It's a work in progress, but I'm working really hard."

Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson, who is running Islanders rookie camp, had the task of trying to keep Ho-Sang level-headed during those trying times last season. Ho-Sang had 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 50 AHL games.

"He's maturing every year, so this is now another step," Thompson said. "Coming in, he's a little older and the experience that he's gone through hopefully he takes that, learns from it and moves forward, just like we are. We're learning from him and we're moving forward.

"It's challenging with every player, not just Josh. Everyone has a deficiency. Just getting him to buy in through the course of the year … there was that inconsistency through that course of the year as far as defensive habits and just right times to make the play.

"It's always a challenge when you're working with a special player. I'm excited for him. I think he has a good opportunity this year." 

With center John Tavares opting to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent July 1, the Islanders will need others to step up and try to fill the void offensively. Given Ho-Sang's natural ability, he'll be provided every opportunity to show he's capable of helping. Lamoriello and Trotz will certainly do their part to bring him along.

"I just want to listen," Ho-Sang said. "I want to soak everything in. Last year was a hard year for me, and I just want a good one."

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