The New York Islanders headed out on the road for this weekend’s back-to-back in Dallas and St. Louis with just 12 healthy forwards after the IR placement of Nikolay Kulemin.
It’s not an uncommon move, but it’s one that tempts fate and, sure enough, fate was all too willing to play along. After Anthony Beauvillier left Friday night’s complete no-show in Dallas with Multiple Shot Block Syndrome, the Isles were in need of another forward and, indeed, a true spark.
Enter Joshua Ho-Sang, recalled on an emergency basis for tonight against the Blues.
Ho-Sang is your classic case of a young, high-upside, good-because-he’s-improvisational but also Coach’s Project-because-he’s-improvisational forward. So naturally his talent excites, his handling causes constant debate among fans and observers in hockey’s endless “let the youth learn and actual skill be free” vs. “everyone must pay their dues and actually, you know, follow team structure” debate.
Spizzwolf’s post looking at the circumstances of Ho-Sang’s demotion details quite well the no-no mistakes he made, as well as the reasons to hope he’d return soon.
There’s rarely an absolute certain answer to this debate, even though partisans often act like there is because sports. Mathew Barzal was rushed or not rushed last year at age 19, sent back to juniors either to further develop or, where there was “nothing left to learn,” began this season pointless before taking off and looking like the best Islander for the past two weeks. Things all start to come together for young players at different times, and things click often in a series of stages.
The backdrop for these situations is always the rules of roster management: Waiver exemption, AHL eligiblity, contract “triggers,” and the 23-man roster. Ho-Sang was certainly caught up by that when Alan Quine came off IR. Now that Kulemin is on IR (opening a roster spot) and Beauvillier was hurt last night (opening a lineup spot), the next opportunity for Ho-Sang has arrived just as the Islanders appear to desperately need it after an absurdly lifeless performance in Dallas.
When Ho-Sang was first returned to Bridgeport, the Islanders were winning games and it was easy for them to say it’s the right situation for both young player and NHL team.
Now that conditions have changed, they’ll no doubt join fans in hoping Ho-Sang forces their hand and team results follow accordingly.
With just three regulation losses, the Blues have been at the top of the league from the start this season, so they pose a major test to the Islanders. Anything better than last night will represent “progress,” but the Islanders need more than a moral victory out of this contest. Ho-Sang’s presence should only increase the odds of that happening.