Islanders AHL coach on Josh Ho-Sang: ‘He’s got a lot of growing to do’

New York Islanders' Josh Ho-Sang. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

New York Islanders forward Josh Ho-Sang was a healthy scratch for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, on Wednesday, and when Bridgeport’s head coach Brent Thompson was asked about the decision, he said the move was part of the learning process for his young player.

“He’s a baby,” Thompson told the New York Post, referring to the soon-to-be 22-year-old young professional. “He’s a baby, he’s immature and he’s got a lot of growing to do. I’m excited. The upside of him is outstanding. He worked hard today, he’s been working really hard. We all make mistakes, we all have bad games. It’s how do we respond from those and what do we learn from them?

“Every piece of this season for Josh, with us, is a development piece. It’s just going to be a longer process with some people.”

Ho-Sang’s upside isn’t just something the Islanders are hoping to see or are presuming is there based on his draft selection (he was the 28th overall pick in 2014), it’s something they’ve seen and are waiting for to happen consistently.

He turned heads when he made his debut in 2016-17 appearing in 21 games for the NHL club while notching four goals and six assists, telegraphing to the New York brass that he can succeed at the NHL level.

At least that was his hope heading into the 2017-18 season.

“When you start the year in the NHL and then get scratched in the AHL in the same year, it’s kind of … it’s kind of mentally tough,” Ho-Sang said after morning skate on Wednesday.“I don’t think anybody can break my confidence, but it’s definitely put in a place where it’s not very good.

“There’s certain things I can do on the ice to remind myself of what I am and who I am. But it’s just tough when you have people getting on you and sometimes when everyone’s talking to you about the negative, you may look at yourself negatively.”

In the last game Ho-Sang played before being made a healthy scratch, a 6-1 loss to Toronto, Thompson limited Ho-Sang to one shift in the last 29 minutes of the game, according to a ctpost.com story.

The coach expressed that he needed to see more consistency out of Ho-Sang on a night-to-night basis after that game against Toronto.

“He has to learn to manage the puck better and play away from the puck. Too many turnovers,” Thompson told ctpost.com. “It’s a team game. It’s making sure all five guys are on the same page. He’s got to learn to play that team game, which will help him be successful in the NHL.”

It’s not as if the Islanders haven’t given Ho-Sang chances this season.

He played in 22 games this season, one more than last, before he was sent down to the AHL for the second and most recent time on Dec. 15. Compared to 2016-17 he did manage to pick up two more points, even though only two of the 12 were goals.

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Now, at the AHL level, he is playing at a 0.8 points-per-game pace through 15 contests, a step up from the 0.72 points per game he put up in 50 games before his call up last year.

That’s perhaps what’s most frustrating for the young, NHL hopeful.

“I enjoy playing up there and I find that when I’m up there, I’ve had a quite a bit of success,” he said. “I think I’ve had more success up there than hardship. But they want what they want.

“Yeah, I’m only young, but I’m burning years off my NHL career. It sucks, you want to be up top. For me, I didn’t look at it this way until this year. I was looking forward to hopefully my first [full] NHL season.”

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