Habs fans have been clamouring for a big forward with skill for several seasons, especially this past one when the team literally had the highest number of sub six foot forwards in the NHL. While that is still an important piece of the team’s goal towards the ultimate prize, a smaller player with incredible offensive skill should not be ignored at the expense of pure size. This year’s draft has one of these types of players in Josh Ho-Sang, who many draft rankings predict will land in the bottom third of the first round at best, possibly slipping into the second round.
Born: January 22, 1996 – Thornhill, ON
Height: 5’11” Weight: 175 pounds Shoots: Right
ISS Rank: 18 THN Rank: 27 CSB: 22 [NA skaters]
This second year prospect really blossomed this past season. Since I live in the Windsor area I’ve been able to see Josh play a few live games the past few years. His offensive output nearly doubled rising from 44 points in his rookie year, to 87 in his 2nd campaign. Ho-Sang has elite level speed, in terms of both acceleration and straight ahead speed. His lateral movements are equally impressive, especially while maintaining top speed with the puck; he really appears “slippery”, tough to hit when he’s carrying the puck. His puck handling ability matches his skating, and his hockey sense and anticipation in the offensive zone are top notch. In both of those categories, he reminds me a lot of Pavel Datysuk and Nathan MacKinnon, with a similar skill of holding on to the puck like it’s glued to his stick. Ho-Sang has a quick release, both with his wrist shot and snap shot, while his slapshot is similarly quick and deceptive.
Some detractors say he should shoot more often, instead of trying to make a pass when in a strong scoring position instead of dishing off to try and make a higher risk but more spectacular scoring chance for another. I believe that ability will come to him as he matures some more and plays at a higher level. Some say he tries to beat
three to four players with the puck too often indicating a selfishness with the puck. But many times he is successful at doing this, and often seems to do so because his teammates are not as adept at getting into position to receive a pass or time the breakouts to match his speed. To me, the inferiority of his teammates forces Ho-Sang to feel he has to do it all. I’ve also seen him play very well when his linemates were on more of a par with his own level, such as the CHL Top Prospects game this year. In that match Josh was a standout, contributing a goal and an assist on the game winning goal. Those
two points were scored with different linemates, while tying for the team lead in scoring, as he contributed towards half of his team’s
One of the downsides to this player is his size. Although he turned 18 in January and still managed to stand at 5’11” and 175 pounds at the NHL Combine in May, indicating he has grown somewhat since the start of the season. Some say his defensive ability needs work. However he has shown some improvement in that area in his second season. Being paired with ex-Habs prospect Brady Vail has helped Josh in that area. Regardless, this deficiency can be worked on in his next junior season, and afterwards at the pro level. Josh will take a hit to make a play and doesn’t shy away from the corners if he knows he can get to the puck and make something happen when he gets it.
Josh has first line level potential based on several offensive factors. He’s simply a game breaker, with an abundance of offensive ability and hockey sense that’s off the charts. He’s capable of producing highlight scoring plays with either goals or assists and has star potential at the pro level. Some of the other deficits in his game can be coached to him and learned given the right environment and development. Patience and some time needs to be used for whatever team does draft him, as I don’t believe he’s ready to step in to the NHL at age 18, but may surprise some in doing so in 1-2 seasons from now. He will benefit from some physical maturity with that time, and hopefully the Habs will recognize all of this when their turn to draft in the first round should he still be available.