On the opening day of free agency, the Toronto Maple Leafs saw a seismic roster move.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost Zach Hyman, Nick Foligno and their longtime star goaltender Freddie Andersen. However, it wasn’t all programming subtractions. Toronto added Petr Mrazek, Michael Bunting and David Kampf. There was another movement that isn’t going to get as much press but was very smart from GM Kyle Dubas.
The Maple Leafs gave the opportunity to a former first-round draft pick. Dubas has hired free agent Josh Ho-Sang for a pro tryout.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Josh Ho-Sang
When Ho-Sang entered the NHL Draft in 2014, there were already rumbles that he was a player to avoid. His outspokenness and pride had dissuaded teams from recruiting one of the most gifted players in his class. Ho-Sang fell to 28th when he was selected by the New York Islanders. At the time, it was seen as a good deal, with some speculating that Ho-Sang could become the NHL’s top bathandler.
Ho-Sang joined the Islanders organization with a chip on his shoulder. He was excluded from Provincial and National teams as a junior player and was only interviewed by 18 NHL clubs prior to the draft.
Things didn’t turn out as well as Ho-Sang and the Islanders had hoped. He has only managed to play a total of 53 NHL games in the past five years. He spent most of his time developing in the AHL. Last season, the Islanders loaned Ho-Sang to Orebro from the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) where, once again, things went wrong.
Ho-Sang was cut by Orebro. In the team’s press release, their sporting director Niklas Johansson explained that “Josh is far in training compared to the rest of the squad and the adjustment to our game has not gone as fast as we have. hoped. Fortunately, Linkoping HC in the SHL decided to take over Ho-Sang where he continued to play on loan from the Islanders.
This rejection was nothing new for the six-foot-tall forward. In 2019, he requested a trade from the Islanders but general manager Lou Lamoriello could not find a club willing to make a trade. Ho-Sang was rejected throughout his career, but he showed resilience and continued to persevere.
At 25, Ho-Sang has the opportunity to show that he matured and only grew after his setbacks. His hometown team gave him the chance to prove he belongs in the NHL. Despite his past and all the negativity that surrounded Ho-Sang since playing a minor midget on the Toronto Marlboros with Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett, he can now take steps forward. This may be the year Ho-Sang realizes his dream and becomes a regular member of an NHL roster.
Even if that doesn’t happen, that PTO signature is great for Dubas. It’s a safe move for the Leafs. If Ho-Sang doesn’t impress at training camp, their relationship can be broken. Alternatively, he can become a recovery project like Alex Galchenyuk. Even if he doesn’t get the Leafs out of the camp, Ho-Sang may have the chance to play for the Toronto Marlies and return to the NHL.
I am personally in favor of Ho-Sang. Not only would it be great for the Maple Leafs to find another talented forward, it would be a great story for the resilient athlete. There might not be many opportunities like this for Ho-Sang anymore, so I hope he can use it with his past experiences and flourish.