When we last wrote about Islanders prospect Joshua Ho-Sang, it was because he wasn't invited to Canada's World Junior selection camp. Instead of stewing, Ho-Sang has been streaking, extending his point streak to 18 games and leading his Niagara Ice Dogs in both goals (10) and assists (38) this season.
In an interview published this evening at Yahoo.ca's Buzzing The Net, the always entertaining Ho-Sang talked to writer Daniel Nugent-Bowman about a wide range of topics, including his battles with Hockey Canada, the intense scrutiny he's under and his highly-publicized exit from Islanders training camp for sleeping late.
The whole thing is worth a read, but here are a few notable highlights.
On his many vocal critics in media and hockey circles:
For me, it's just about keeping my head. A lot of stuff has happened. I've had to deal with a lot on a personal level, people being vicious. It makes you mentally stronger. The fact that I'm dealing with this now is kind of nice. If it gets worse than this, I know how to deal with it.
BTN: Are you hearing it mostly from hockey people, coaches, media, players?
JHS: Hockey people. The media. It's all the time. Every time I get interviewed I get asked about all the stuff. Why? What do you want to talk to me about? It's just being a pinata for no reason. You can come to me with a lot, but right now I'm on an 18-game point streak. People want to come talk to me about that or about our team this year and how we're making progressions. That's great. But anything else that happened that involved me is kind of stupid.
The baggage that's built up over the years has clearly affected Ho-Sang, but it sounds like he's trying to carry on in spite of it. More than anything he says here, his play this season demonstrates that he seems to be getting better at blocking it out. Which is good, because as of now, it doesn't look like it's going anywhere.
On being "a shit head" when first entering the OHL:
BTN: There was a big piece on you in Sportsnet magazine earlier this year. You said when you came into the OHL you were a "s---head" and you were even more of one once you started playing in the league. You also said you had trouble being coachable. Do you find that things are changing? Are you maturing?
JHS: When I say that I was a s---head, there's different ways you can take that. My coach would be like, ‘Dump the puck in.' But I would go end-to-end and set up a goal. That would be my only point in the game, but it would be right after he told me to dump it in. That's what I meant. There were definitely some times where I was hard to coach. It was tough. I came into the league and I put up 50 points (actually 44) and then my next year I put up 80 (actually 85). I was progressing. There are certain things that come easy and certain things that don't. I'm trying to figure out how to make the things I'm not good at better and continue doing things at a high level.
On how John Tavares' influence has helped him this season:
JHS: I talked to him at the (Islanders) golf tournament. A lot of the stuff he talked to me about has helped contribute to the point streak. It's having some sort of impact every night. I talked to him a lot about the mental side of the game. With a guy like John Tavares, you look at him and look at his elite skill set and how he sees the ice. You see that he really thinks the game. Guys like that, you like to get in their head. They aren't necessary feel players. They really see the game.
BTN: For instance, you said (in an interview with the Toronto Sun) of those coming out of the 2014 draft, you'd be the best player in three years. Do you still think that?
JHS: Oh yeah. I'm in a really good position. John Tavares is maybe the best player in the world. He's really great on both sides of the puck. Playing with a guy like that, anything's possible. You look at Jamie Benn playing with (Tyler) Seguin. Jamie Benn's eating up all the points. If you're playing with a lot of elite players like in New York - they're doing very well without me - if I can come and jump in and be a threat, the sky's the limit.
For a former "shit head," Ho-Sang clearly picked the right guy to watch during his brief tenures at Islanders' functions.
In a lot of ways, they're direct opposites; one paragraph of this one Ho-sang interview is more memorable than anything Tavares has said in all of his interviews in the last calendar year combined. The Islanders drafted Ho-Sang because of the electricity in his game. If he can add some of Tavares' work ethic and drive to improve to that, he'll get his chance in the NHL. And hopefully not be a shit head when he does.
On his latest snubs from Hockey Canada:
They came to a couple of my games this year actually and I played very bad. In their defence, if people want to get on them about that, they came to two games - I know the two games they were at - and I played brutal both games. That's what it is. They came during my point streak, but I just played like s---. That happens. If they want to judge you on that, in all fairness, they totally have the right to.
BTN: It's probably a case - like we talked about - where, in addition to getting points, there are other things you need to do on the ice.
JHS: Yeah, for sure. Those were just tough nights. Everybody has them. If I played great I might be a little more upset. But I didn't play well and that's life.
Fair or unfair, it's highly likely that Hockey Canada is done with Ho-Sang for now. Next season, he'll be AHL eligible and could be added to a World Championships roster in the future. He would have to complete a Robert Downey Jr.-like career turnaround to make Canada's Olympic teams in either 2018 or 2022.
The good news is that Ho-Sang doesn't need Hockey Canada to have a successful career. His relationship with the Islanders - even after the Summer Snooze - appears to be good. He's used two-time Hart Trophy finalist John Tavares as motivation and been a consistent force for his team this season without missing a beat.
Pinata, shit head, superstar or otherwise, he's still an important - and intriguing - part of the Islanders' future.