Josh Ho-Sang, a smile across his face, collected himself for a moment before he spoke.
I had just asked him if he could be an x-factor this year for an Islanders team that was four wins away from making the Eastern Conference final last year.
“Yeah,” he said. “I was up last year, the team went 9-1, I feel like I can help.”
While his long-term fit for the Islanders remains uncertain, the numbers check out. In an abbreviated stint in the NHL last season, the Islanders won nine of 10 games in which Ho-Sang appeared. The 23-year-old recorded two points in those games — a goal and an assist.
The Ho-Sang era in New York has been a puzzling one.
Perceived to be a top-10 talent in the 2014 draft, behavioral issues saw his draft stock drop to the end of the first round where the Islanders nabbed him.
He’s had a short leash and limited stints in the NHL since then despite a playmaking skillset that could develop toward a star level. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Ho-Sang has appeared in 53 games, recording seven goals, 17 assists, and a minus-4 rating.
The Islanders still decided to re-sign the winger to a one-year contract this summer when he was an restricted free agent, making this training camp an important one for his NHL future.
When speaking with the media on Thursday, however, Ho-Sang portrayed little urgency.
“I’m not really too stressed about it. I’m happy right now,” Ho-Sang said. “I get to play hockey for a living. There’s worse things.”
Ho-Sang will have to wow head coach Barry Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello to secure an NHL roster spot this fall, which won’t be an easy task. The Islanders have limited space on their wings given their depth along with youngsters Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom waiting in the wings.
“I don’t know. I think that’s up for me to kind of create and then [for management] to give me the chance,” Ho-Sang said. “I think it’s both. And I take responsibility for what I can control. They can do whatever they want.”
Training camp begins on Friday.