Josh Ho-Sang says coaches would warn kids not to play like him. Maple Leafs minor league player wants to change that narrative

Josh Ho-Sang seems in no rush to return to the NHL. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to be in the NHL. That’s the goal, to win a spot with the Maple Leafs, this season if all goes well.

But he also knows that he has time with the Toronto Marlies and sees it as a gift, not so much to develop his talent, but to redevelop his talent.

“I feel like all my life I’ve been that kid where everyone says, ‘He’s really good. Never play hockey like him, ‘”Ho-Sang said recently after the Marlies’ practice. “The only thing I’m really focused on is being a good hockey player from start to finish.

“I just want to be that player that the coaches can say, ‘You should play like him.’ “

That Ho-Sang has NHL-level offensive talent, by now, it goes without saying. He is one of the AHL’s goal scoring leaders with eight in 13 games this season.

But it is his game without the disc that has been the problem. For players who have always been the best on their teams growing up, learning to defend can be the hardest part of playing professionally, a lesson Ho-Sang is taking seriously.

“When you’re a skilled player, you want the puck and you get the puck a lot. And because of that, sometimes you don’t go after the record, ”said Ho-Sang.

Every NHL player was once the best on their team growing up. When they arrive in the NHL, their place in the hierarchy changes. Getting the record is more difficult. Defense, the act of retrieving the puck to attack, is much more important. And that’s what Ho-Sang is working on.

“It’s just about working hard, away from the record. Incorporate that relentlessness into your game and also be responsible, ”said Ho-Sang. “This is the best defensive season I’ve had so far. I’m proud of that, I like it. “

Marlies coach Greg Moore likes how Ho-Sang is growing as a player.

Josh Ho-Sang, seen here at Toronto Maple Leafs training camp in September, is now with the Marlies, trying to get back into the NHL.

“He’s doing a really good job of reflecting on himself and reassessing after every game what he’s in, what he’s doing,” Moore said. “We’re seeing a lot of solid gains in his game that he knows he needs to work on, whether it’s his defensive points, his 50-50 puck competition on defense or even the offensive zone, and highlighting that you can use his ability to improve his team and not just wait and pick his spots offensively.

“He’s really starting to complete his game, and now he’s just finding consistency within that as he develops and grows.”

Ho-Sang would help in any NHL power play and in 4v4 or 3v3 situations. His overtime goal against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms is proof enough of that: a dipsy-do deke and then a heavy hit. on the wrist.

That goal made tongues wag, wondering if he would ever be called up to the Leafs this year. Ho-Sang remains under an AHL contract. To use him in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Leafs would have to sign him to an NHL contract before the trade deadline.

At that point, the Leafs would have to decide if he was a member of the NHL. If so, no problem, you could keep the team. But if there’s a salary cap issue, or a roster spot issue, or if they thought he needed more development time with the Marlies, then he would have to remove the waivers after signing that deal. The Leafs haven’t been very successful in getting players through waivers, having lost Michael Amadio and Adam Brooks this year.

Ho-Sang doesn’t have a deadline in mind.

“I haven’t really played hockey in the last two years,” said Ho-Sang, a first-round pick with the New York Islanders in 2014.

“Just taking it easy and doing my best to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This is the first time I’ve played in North America in a year and a half and the first time I’ve played a season in two years. “

None of the rumors that he wasn’t a team kid, or that he was a bad apple, has followed him to Toronto, where he’s gotten off to a fresh start. Even in private conversations, Marlies insiders will say that the Ho-Sang they see is not the Ho-Sang they expected. Nobody says a bad word about him.

“Staff, the players love him,” Moore said. “It brings a lot of energy. Is a good person. Every team needs some of those guys who bring personality. And it brings it, in a really good way. “

And that has led some to believe that, at 25, Ho-Sang is rewriting his future in hockey.

“It’s nice to play and there is no outside noise,” said Ho-Sang. “It seems that I came here and things are much calmer. I know it’s strange to talk about Toronto, but it’s been nice. I have different expectations here compared to what I had previously in Sweden, San Antonio, Bridgeport. It’s good to work with the coaches to design a squad for what is a good game for me, what is not a good game for me. I’ve had more good games than bad. “

As for getting back into the NHL, that’s not his goal.

“I’m focusing on the game as a whole, what I can offer in all areas, not necessarily one or two,” Ho-Sang said. “I’m just working on the things I need to ease the transition to the NHL, my next AL team, or even next year here. I want that transition to be perfect. I don’t want it to be where I’m really good here, but I can’t play anywhere else.

“So fixing and fine-tuning your game is important. I would love to stay here, but I have no idea what the future holds. So for me, having that full game is the most important thing, because that makes it easier for them to say, ‘Yeah, we want Josh back’ versus’ Hmm, I don’t know. “


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