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Ho-Sang Returns: A look at his shifts in his first game back

The Islanders winger has been in the AHL to master the details. How’d he do on his first test?

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at New York Islanders
Navigating NHL expectations.
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

In his season debut Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings, Joshua Ho-Sang played a team-low 8:22 of 5v5. In his handful of shifts, the 22-year-old right winger did well to maintain possession and create some offense while — perhaps most importantly — avoiding any glaring mistakes.

It was the first game of Ho-Sang’s career with center Valtteri Filppula, but the two seemed to share an understanding throughout the game.

Ho-Sang’s most memorable shift of the game came early. With three minutes to go in the first he gathered the puck and side-stepped an opponent at the Islanders blueline, flying through the neutral zone with Leo Komarov alongside.

Filppula was a passing option, as the Isles could have easily opted for a 3-on-2, but Valtteri had other plans, as he picked off a Red Wing entering from the bench. Since Filppula was straddling the blue line the pick wasn’t ruled interference (though he could have stayed onside without becoming so much of an obstacle). It was a savvy play by the 13-year veteran.

This provided Komarov with perhaps a little more time-space than he anticipated, as he found himself too tight on the goal. As Isles commentator Butch Goring said, Ho-Sang took the only passing lane available, and it ended up inches behind Komarov’s stick.

Midway through the second period, as the Islanders were on the tail-end of a power play, Ho-Sang headed to the slot, hoping for a prime scoring chance. When he saw Brock Nelson curling around largely uncontested, Ho-Sang decided to fade toward the opposite side of the slot, allowing Nelson space to shoot while also providing a passing option.

As Nelson shot, both Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier were ready for a rebound to either side. The puck didn’t bounce the Islanders’ way, but I imagine the coaching staff was pleased by the decisions of Nelson and Ho-Sang here.

Four minutes later, Ho-Sang strung together three quick decisions to help the Isles maintain possession in the offensive zone.

Komarov chipped the puck into the zone and battled to send it behind the net. As you can see below, the Red Wings had three players in better position than Ho-Sang (right side of screen) to win the free puck. Joshua used his speed, cutting in front of the defenseman to win the puck to Filppula.

A few seconds later Leddy pinched in, passing the puck to Ho-Sang down low. Anticipating the positioning and momentum of the five Wings, Ho-Sang touched the puck out to Filppula up high.

The pass wasn’t quite on the mark, but with all five wings down low it provided him time to settle the puck and maintain possession. The one-touch pass by Ho-Sang was unusual for a bottom-6 NYI forward, but it wasn’t particularly risky, as a miss would have merely coasted back to the Isles goalie.

A moment later, after receiving the puck from Komarov, Ho-Sang battled behind the net to keep the puck and send a quick pass to Filppula in a decent scoring position. Valtteri opted to curl away and maintain possession, which seems the right choice, since Komarov committed to providing support for Ho-Sang behind the net.

Altogether the shift was a fine display of Ho-Sang’s awareness and anticipation in the offensive zone.

Early in the third period, the Islanders’ second power play unit found themselves on the ice again after the Wings reached even-strength. Detroit was still passive, so as Ho-Sang received the puck from Pulock he took space in the upper slot and shuffled one toward the goal. It looked more like Joshua was hoping to find Beauvillier’s stick, but Anthony’s blade was above his head as he battled for position.

Still, it was great to see Ho-Sang commit to the obvious option, rather than try for Nelson or Filppula. If he shoots more on a regular basis, the cross-ice passing lanes will open up.

Mid-way through the third period Ho-Sang displayed patience, poise, and a burst of speed to make this zone exit and entry combo look easy. For the entry, notice how Filppula provides the option and Ho-Sang places the puck right on the blade, before exploding into position to receive the return pass.

Eventually the Wings will work to knock the puck off Ho-Sang’s stick and out to center ice, but it was a very encouraging bit of work by Ho-Sang here.

In his season debut, Ho-Sang provided quite a bit of excitement in a limited amount of shifts without displaying any glaring mistakes. I do hope that we see Ho-Sang back on Filppula’s line Monday night in Colorado.

Thanks to Jonathan Spicyn for providing the GIFs to illustrate this article.