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Report: Maple Leafs close to signing Josh Ho-Sang

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Updated: this is a PTO.

New York Islanders v New York Rangers
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: Joshua Ho-Sang #26 of the New York Islanders skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on September 24, 2019 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Islanders 3-1.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

UPDATE: David Pagnotta is walking this back and saying it’s a PTO now. We will confirm when we know for sure.

And now official.

After years stuck in the New York Islanders system, Josh Ho-Sang is attempting to make his NHL return with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two sides are close on a two-way deal, meaning there’s a strong chance he’ll be with the Toronto Marlies after clearing waivers to start.

Ho Sang, 25, has seven goals and 24 points in 53 career NHL games. He has 30 goals and 123 points in 178 AHL games. This is a good bet on a talented player who New York and Bridgeport didn’t like because he didn’t fit the mold of a quiet, boring hockey player. He spent his last season under the Islanders contract rights in the SHL where he scored three points in nine games on two different teams.

The Story

“When you boil it down, all I’ve said in the media is that I believe in myself, that I have dreams. I don’t know what’s wrong with that,” Ho-Sang says. “People will find what they want to find in what I say. I just speak my mind. If people want to make me seem like an asshole, go ahead. It’s cool.” [Sportsnet Big Read]

He spoke up in this Athletic piece about how he wasn’t given as much rope as his teammates and it didn’t help him improve as a player.

“I do have things I need to work on down here, my game is far from perfect. It can constantly improve. But I do think a lot of the stuff was unwarranted, especially in terms of the rope that other people were given. I understand I have a history and that might be a factor. I don’t know. But it’s frustrating to me.” [The Athletic]

Ho-Sang speaks up, he says what’s on his mind in a respectful way, just not in the anglo-saxon way. In Toronto, things should be different. The Leafs do not have that kind of culture.

Ho-Sang The Player

Ho-Sang says himself that’s he’s not a perfect player. He lacks some motivation in the defensive zone and didn’t fit within the Islanders’ system. But he is a very talented playmaker that can be leveraged for his strengths and nurtured on a person-to-person level to find a home within the system. The Marlies have done this for players like Jeremy Bracco in the recent past to strong offensive and power play results for a time.

He’s got great vision and puck handling abilities, as well as good feet. He’s deceptive and has creativity for days. Combined, that leads to high-risk, high-reward plays that do fall apart sometimes, but can also lead to offensive transitions, shots, and scoring chances when they work. There will be a push to simplify his game somewhat; not needing to make the 10/10 play when the 8/10 play will do just fine, and finding room for big plays when the cost isn’t as high (when the team has numbers back).

You can see in the highlights below that Ho-Sang has the ability to draw attention to him before making a quick play to an open player. Those almost one-touch passes are quite impressive. They’re not just simple drop-backs but purposeful passes that lead directly to shots.

Ho-Sang, if he makes the Leafs (I don’t think it’s going to happen right away), would inject some offensive creativity to a bottom six that was desperately looking for someone to do something with the puck last season. He also wears #66, which is awesome, and he can hang out with William Nylander as radio heads yell and scream at them.