On July 1st, the Islanders surprised its fans by signing Leo Komarov, Valterri Filppula, and Tom Khunhackl. Despite having just lost John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Islanders had one of the deepest forward prospect pools in the NHL. Now seeming like a rebuilding team, it seemed like playing the young forwards to gain experience would be a wise idea. Instead, the Isles elected to bring in veteran leadership to help lead the team to immediate success. Now, with some of the veterans like Andrew Ladd and Khunhackl out of the lineup, some young players are getting a chance, and are running with it.
Forward Joshua Ho-Sang was selected 28th overall in 2014. Then GM Garth Snow took a risk by drafting him that high, as the skilled forward was known to have many off-ice issues. Those appeared on Long Island when he missed his alarm clock on the first day of 2015 training camp and was shipped back to junior.
Ho-Sang has since improved his off-ice issues and was called up during the 2016-2017 season. He even made the team out of camp in 17-18 but was sent back to Bridgeport due to poor play. His attitude and play suffered again and coming into 18-19, many began thinking that he would never as successful as he was once projected to be.
This season, Ho-Sang got off to a great start in Bridgeport, and despite revealing in an interview with the New York Post that he was dissatisfied with playing time, he registered 22 points in 26 games with the Islanders’ affiliate. He was called up in mid-December and played his first game of the year against the Detroit Red Wings. He has one point in five games, a goal against Arizona.
Especially since he’s only played 5 games, points don’t tell the entire story. He’s been skating on a line with Filppula and Komarov. His speed and creativity with the puck has given a boost to the line. They’ve been in the offensive zone more lately. Komarov is a +3 with JHS in the lineup and Filppula scored an important goal against the Avalanche and assisted on Ho-Sang’s goal the next night in Phoenix.
Previously criticised for his turnovers, Ho-Sang has been a much smarter player with the puck since being called up. He’s learned to dump the puck in instead of carrying it dangerously through center ice and risking a turnover. He still is able to get to the front of the net and make creative plays with the puck in the offensive zone. The points haven’t come yet, but the team is winning with him in the lineup, and when it’s all said and done, that’s the most important thing.
After the Islanders won in Arizona, Barry Trotz spoke highly of Ho-Sang. “Josh, since he’s come up, he’s really playing the right way. He’s got real good hockey sense and he’s got the speed and the skill. When he’s playing the way he is now, he’s going to be hard to send (back to the AHL) if he continues to do that. Give him credit, I thought he was one of our better players.” It seems like the speedy forward has finally found a home in the NHL.
On Sunday, the Islanders inserted defenseman Devon Toews into the lineup for his first NHL game. He was taken 108th overall in the 2014 draft, but always seemed to play higher than his draft position, especially when healthy.
After a successful collegiate career at Quinnipiac, Toews hit the ground running in his first year in Bridgeport. He led rookie defensemen in scoring and was the 10th highest scoring blue liner in the AHL. He played in the All-Star game and won the fastest skater competition with a time of 13.478 seconds. He was having a similar season in 17-18 until a shoulder injury prematurely ended his season.
By now, Toews had made a name for himself in the AHL and picked up right where he left off before getting injured, earning himself a call up to the NHL when Johnny Boychuk had to return home to his wife who gave birth to their third child. Toews didn’t score in his first NHL game against the Dallas Stars, but was a +1 and impressed with his speed and ability to jump up into the play, helping the Isles win their third game of the recent four game road trip.
“Comfortable would be a good way to put it…” Toews said after the 3-1 win on Sunday. It speaks to the confidence the young defenseman has as he begins what should be a successful NHL career if he continues to play like he did in his debut.
A season is long and full of twists and turns. Based on the moves Lou Lamiorello made on July 1st, it seemed like he envisioned a team led by veterans. The veterans are surely leading, but when the organization had to turn to its young talent to keep pace in a tough Eastern Conference, it has managed to continue winning games proving that it has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs and contend with some of the powerhouses of the league.