It looks like Josh Ho-Sang has taken that next step.
The Windsor Spitfires anticipated getting a slippery speedster after taking Ho-Sang with its top OHL priority selection pick two years ago. Over the course of the second season, the Toronto native who embraces being a beacon for a multicultural sports world has steadily applied it to being a catalyst for his teammates. The 17-year-old is not only a top-10 scorer with 81 points, but Ho-Sang has the same number of assists (52) as higher ranked NHL draft prospects Sam Bennett and Michael Dal Colle. That all comes back to learning how to play off his linemates, which include Montreal Canadiens pick Brady Vail. The offensive leadership has helped the Spitfires stay in the middle of the Western Conference despite trading captain Kerby Rychel to league-leading Guelph in December.
"When you get older, you kind of need more patience with the puck and to watch the game," says Ho-Sang, ranked No. 18 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. "Sometimes it's difficult because if you think the game one way and the people you're on the ice with think it another way, it can cause confusion, say, when you're anticipating someone to go to a hole for a pass. It goes both ways and that's something you need to communicate and demonstrate.
"It's been a lot of fun trying to guide the younger guys," the 5-foot-11, 166-pound Ho-Sang adds. "It really develops your leadership skills. It's been up and down for my team but I keep working at it."
Ho-Sang's acceleration and playmaking, leavened by concerns about his size, put him on the cusp of being a top 10 pick in the NHL draft. . While his unique background — Ho-Sang's father Wayne was born in Jamaica, his mother Ericka is Chilean by birth and his Chinese surname was passed down from a grandfather — stands out in hockey, his family's sporting consciousness has also informed his intuition on the ice. With a father who's a tennis pro, Ho-Sang developed an early understanding of sport's angles and body positioning. After all, on the court, a one-degree difference in how a player holds his racket can make the difference in winning or losing a point.
"Tennis not only helped with the hand-eye coordination but also my lateral movement and my attention to detail," Ho-Sang says. "The ball is coming at so fast and you have to be so careful with how you hit it. I can definitely apply a lot of that on the ice, like when making a change in direction and stuff. Tennis is one of those sports that everyone thinks they can play because they see it on TV and think, 'oh this looks pretty easy.' People don't know how fast the ball is going and the attention to detail that the players have. Me and my dad have got in fights in the summer over my shoulder being in the improper position. It's just little things."
1. How does someone born in 1996 have Denis Savard, who retired in '97, as his favourite player?
"I loved the way he plays. I kind of got pushed to Denis Savard by Steve Larmer [the 1980s-era Chicago Blackhawks left wing]. I was friends with his son and he kind of pushed me toward him. I started watching his highlights and I just loved the style of play. Obviously, hockey was a bit different then, but I admire the tenacity."
2. What teammate(s) have really helped you adapt to the OHL?
"Every teammate that I've had, they've all done different things. [Chris] Marchese, [former Spits captain] Kerby Rychel, [Brady] Vail, [Slater] Koekkoek, the list goes on. They've all provided little bits and pieces to help me get comfortable and they'll continue to do that."
3. Who is the toughest defenceman you have faced in the OHL?
"Aaron Ekblad [of the Barrie Colts]. He's smart and he reads play well."
4. I noticed in a press kit that you have really enjoyed units on Shakespeare during school; was there any particular play you enjoyed?
"Hamlet. That was pretty interesting. All his plays are kind of really dark and it just kind of throws me off. I find it really interesting. The whole idea of, kind, no one's there for you, but everyone's there for you. It's an interesting aspect of life."
5. What is your favourite movie or TV show?
"50 First Dates. I love Adam Sandler. He's hilarious."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.