He has been one of the most talented players in his age group for years, yet Josh Ho-Sang has never been given the chance to shine on a big stage…until now.
The New York Islanders first-rounder will represent the Ontario League in November when the annual CHL-Russia Super Series comes to Kingston on Nov. 17. Ho-Sang, who plays for the Windsor Spitfires, has been a controversial player in OHL circles due to his outspoken nature and what some scouts viewed as a difficult personality to coach (for the record, I've only had positive interactions with Ho-Sang).
So when Ho-Sang was snubbed from Canada's world junior tryout camp this summer, it was surprising, but not shocking. He had previously been passed over for the world under-18 team, the Ivan Hlinka team and last year's Super Series. But now he's getting his chance.
"Josh is a very exciting player and one of the top talents in the Ontario Hockey League," said Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski, who helped pick the team. "He deserves an opportunity to play in these games."
Whether or not Ho-Sang makes the world junior team is another matter. Jankowski was quick to point out how deep he felt the 1995-born forwards were in Canada's world junior pool and Ho-Sang is, of course, a 1996 birthday. Toss in the fact that 1997-born Connor McDavid is a mortal lock for the squad and Ho-Sang has his work cut out for him.
But at least he's getting a shot. Guelph Storm coach Mike Kelly, who will be behind the bench for the OHL stars and will also be an assistant coach at the world juniors, cited character as one of the qualifications for the team, so clearly Ho-Sang isn't a red flag in his eyes. And with players such as Anthony Duclair, Curtis Lazar and Sam Reinhart potentially being too busy in the NHL for world junior duty, a good showing in Kingston could go a long way for Ho-Sang.
"These games are very important as an evaluation tool," Jankowski said. "Who raises their game and who stands out against international competition?"
There's also the obvious need for the OHL: winning against the Russians on home ice. Despite a dominating history, the OHLers have lost three of the past four tilts against the Russians after winning the first 18 contests. Not only is there the pride factor, but Jankowski believes the confidence would carry over to the world juniors.
"I don't think it can be understated how much we want to win these games," he said.