Josh Ho-Sang lands with New York Islanders: ‘I think I have 26 teams to show that they missed out’

PHILADELPHIA — Whatever naivety Josh Ho-Sang has at 18 years old, it does not include knowing his recent comments about hockey culture mean the die has been cast for the next few years of his career.

"I think I have 26 teams to show that they missed out and I definitely have to show the Islanders that they were right," the Windsor Spitfires centre said Friday after the Islanders traded up to nab him with the No. 28 overall pick.

"According to everyone else, they're taking a chance on me," he said. "I'm really grateful that they're doing that and I'm going to give them everything they have.

Prior to the draft, the Toronto native, who is black, Jewish and of Jamaican, Chilean and Chinese descent, gave a rather controversial interview to the Toronto Sun ("I'm just another black kid with attitude") about the underlying reasons for why his draft stock had slipped. Ho-Sang wondered if was about his personality, and if his ethnicity might play a part. (Ho-Sang later said some of his words were "out of context.") From the sound of it, the 18-year-old knew it had to play out this way
"I think it was important to let people know, just in general," said Ho-Sang, his Ontario Hockey League contemporary, Michael Dal Colle, also went to Isles at No. 5 overall. "Everybody has their opinion on how I spoke out, and what I said, and my arrogance," the 18-year-old Ho-Sang said. "And that goes around. But it's nothing like that. I'm calm, collected and I believe in myself. People can take that however I like that.

"Honestly, and truly, from what I've seen from Twitter, everything has been positive."

Did he feel that hurt his draft stock? "I think I got drafted to a great team," Ho-Sang replied.

It is no secret, in OHL circles, that Ho-Sang occasionally explored the limits of how much one can be, well, himself without getting away from being a team guy. There is probably more to it than being individual or having non-jock-like tastes such as reading Shakespeare or spending his draft day browsing through an art museum with his parents, Ericka and Wayne ("I do have an interest in art and that got me level'). A lot of visitors to Philly for the draft visited the grounds of the Philadelphia Museum of Art this week to take a picture in front of the Rocky Balboa statue, but Ho-Sang actually goes inside such places. And talks about it instead of speaking in generalities.

The horror.

In due time, Ho-Sang and the Islanders hope, he will figure out how to balance those two sides of him and prove worth the investment of a first-rounder.

"I think I'm just different because I see the world a little bit different," said Ho-Sang, who is not on the summer development roster for Canada's national junior team despite his 85-point season.

"I think I'm outspoken and I think I'm a little more opinionated than most people would like. That's just part of growing up. I'm definitely learning the areas where I can and can't be. I'm just working on that going forward."

"Tonight I was prepared to do not get drafted," added the 5-foot-11, 175-pound centre who likely faces two more seasons in the OHL. "That's something you kind of got to get yourself ready for so you do not get hurt. I was very grateful that they drafted me."

Beyond addressing what led up to the draft, Ho-Sang could have been any other first-rounder slipping into the humble hockey hopeful role after being handed a jersey. He praised Spitfires coach Bob Boughner and GM Warren Rychel ("they take the time to figure me out; they push me to be the best I can"), said he was happy to see friends drafted, including Dal Colle to the Isles at No. 5 overall. Oh, and Islanders star John Tavares called to welcome him to the organization.

It seems like a match. The Islanders — think back to drafting Kirill Kabanov in 2010 — like taking their chances on people other teams red-flag.

"To have a team that believes in me, I'm going to push until I can't breathe," Josh Ho-Sang said.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.