In a surprise move, Joshua Ho-Sang, a New York Islanders 2014 first-round draft pick, was traded Friday by the Windsor Spitfires to the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
A day after Windsor General Manager Warren Rychel batted down rumors that he would move Ho-Sang, he shipped the electrifying high-scoring forward to Niagara for forward Hayden McCool, 17, and OHL draft picks in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
Ho-Sang, 18, was the Spitfires top scorer with three goals and 19 points in 11 games. He amassed 49 goals and 148 points in 141 regular season games for Windsor.
“It’s more sad than anything, but that’s life,” Ho-Sang told The Windsor Star of the trade. “I’m excited to get a start with a new team and hopefully spark a few points.”
He played for Niagara Friday night against the Erie Otters and registered an assist in an IceDogs 2-1 victory. The game was coincidentally televised in Canada on Sportsnet and in the United States on NHL Network.
Spitfires Head Coach and former National Hockey League tough guy Bob Boughner acknowledged that his team gave up a lot of skill when it dispatched Ho-Sang. But he told The Star that “We really like our core group of young guys and we want to build around that core.”
“It’s a little bit of short-term pain for long-term gain, I think,” Boughner told The Star. “We want our team to go in a certain direction and we want to create that strong culture like we had in the past, and this deal allows us to do that.”
Friday’s trade appears to be more about Niagara needing Ho-Sang than Windsor shedding him. The IceDogs were 5-13 heading into Friday’s game. Canoe.ca Sports pointed out that the team will need 48 points in 50 games to remain in the playoff hunt. Their star forward, Brendan Perlini, an Arizona Coyotes first-round pick, has been out with a hand injury.
“We’ve had guys trying to do too much,” Niagara Head Coach and General Manager Marty Williamson told Canoe.ca. “I thought (Toronto Maple Leafs forward prospect) Carter Verhaeghe was a great example. He was just doing way too much.”
Enter Joshua Ho-Sang. He was the Spitfires first-round draft choice – the fifth overall pick – in the 2012 OHL draft. Hockey scouts drooled over his offensive skills: swift skating, slick stickhandling ability, and an array of lethal shots.
But some hockey people became wary of Ho-Sang. Some considered him too individualistic and more concerned about being a human highlight reel than a winning hockey player. They wondered whether he could conform to a team.
He sat out the Spitfires’ first six games under a suspension for a push on London Knights defenseman Zach Bell in last year’s playoffs that resulted in Bell suffering a broken leg.
Ho-Sang hasn’t been shy about speaking him mind. He talked freely about race in an interview with The Toronto Sun ahead of the 2014 NHL Draft, telling the publication that “I think color definitely plays a factor in perception.”
And he’s questioned why Hockey Canada hasn’t given him a serious look for a spot on the team that will play in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto in December and January.
All of that frightened some NHL general managers to the point that they reportedly had Ho-Sang on their “Do Not Draft” list.
Ho-Sang sweated out the first round of June’s draft in Philadelphia until the Islanders and General Manager Garth Snow took him with the 28th overall pick in the draft. The team traded two second-round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning to get the 28th selection.
Afterwards, Snow told TSN that he wasn’t worried about taking Ho-Sang because “They (critics) sh*t on me, too.”