Throughout the off-season, BTN is getting to know some of the Canadian Hockey League's rookie class.
Joshua Ho-Sang is spending this week on a family camping trip, enjoying some quality team at the beach. Next week, he'll plunge into the depths of being a rookie with the Windsor Spitfires.
The Spitfires have Ho-Sang, a fleet-footed forward with scoring touch, pencilled in as a top-six forward. With Alexander Khokhlachev nixing his final junior season to play for the KHL's Moscow Spartak, the Spitfires need some offensive spark and could stand to have Ho-Sang blossom in the Ontario Hockey League rather quickly. So it's not surprising GM Warren Rychel and coach Bob Boughner plan to have Ho-Sang, the No. 5 overall choice in the OHL priority selection draft, do some training in Windsor next week. Call it a pre-training camp training camp.
"It's good chance to kind of start developing that chemistry with the guys who are training there all summer, getting ready for the upcoming season," says the 6-foot, 162-pound Ho-Sang. "It's great to be part of that franchise. They're determined to win. You have amazing people supporting you and every single goal that the team has, it's pretty cool being part of that."
Ho-Sang played two seasons of AAA minor midget with the Toronto Marlboros. His lot last season, on a minor hockey scale, was akin to a player whose fall birthday means he spends three seasons in junior before entering the NHL draft. He had to fight through added attention from opponents on the ice. He was also subject to close scrutiny from scouts who had already had a big window to watch him the prior season.
In Windsor, Ho-Sang will not have to be the linchpin. Just as current Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall did after joining the Spitfires in 2007, Ho-Sang is shifting from centre to wing. The Spitfires had two pivots, Brady Vail (Montreal Canadiens, fourth round) and Michael Clarke (Colorado Avalanche, fifth), drafted in June. Their 2011 first-rounder, Jordan Maletta, is in his NHL draft season. So is power forward Kerby Rychel, who's fresh off a 41-goal season and is projected as a first-round NHL pick.
"With wing, there's less responsiblity and more just get the puck to the centreman and get up the ice," Ho-Sang says. "There's less to think about. Windsor has a ton of very capable centremen, so the fact I'd get to play with those guys is very exciting. I'm really excited for the chance to play with Kerby Rychel. He had 41 goals last year. I'm really big on passing. I love to set guys up. I hope I can find chemistry with him. He's one of the guys who's opened up to me and explained what I'm in for as a rookie.
"All of my goals are team-oriented," Ho-Sang adds. "Because if the team does well, it shows the picks and the people they put in place are working."
Ho-Sang's preparation for the jump from midget to major junior also involves bulking up. While he's a rangy 6-foot and 162 pounds, he notes his parents — Jamaican-born father Wayne and Chilean-born mother Ericka — have come in handy with their kitchen know-how.
"My mom's been a big part of that," he says. "She has a degree in nutrition so it's kind of handy. She kind of hides good stuff in my food and she always gives me stuff after workouts that I might not want, but I need to eat it. My mom and dad are great cooks, so that helps."
1. Whom in the NHL do you really study closely to get an idea of what it takes to be a successful pro?
"Two people I take a lot from for my game are [Detroit Red Wings centre Pavel] Datsyuk and [Boston Bruins centre] Tyler Seguin [a graduate of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers]. Seguin is more of a trigger guy. Datsyuk's more shifty and I like to implement both of those [elements] into my game. Tyler Seguin had one of the best plus-minuses in the NHL this year [second with plus-34] and I've been told by multiple influential people in the game that a high plus/minus is a big thing. Having a good plus can help me achieve my goals."
2. Obviously, there is no area of the game you can take for granted at 16, but what's something specific you really want to improve on as a rookie?
"Defence is the biggest thing. You can make the NHL as a defensive specialist. I want to be really well-rounded so I can adapt to any team in the NHL. Defence is one of those things that's lost in minor hockey because if you score goals, the coach will just say go out there and score goals. I'm really excited to learn more about that part of the game, having someone teach it to me and break it down properly."
3. Your father teaches tennis and you dabbled in soccer and basketball, so when did hockey win out over all?
"Right from the start. I played all those other sports, but I always knew hockey was my real first love.
"I love just being on the ice on general. Warren told me, 'Josh, no ice, gym,' but the ice is my home away from home."
4. Outside of family, who has had the biggest effect on you in hockey?
"John Walters [his adviser]. He's not a part of my family, but he feels like it. He's been there for me since I was nine. I met him in the funniest way, actually. He was a coach and he swore during a practice with his minor midget team and I was in minor atom and my face was up against the glass. And he came over and he apologized and he said, 'I've heard about you, buddy, keep working, keep moving forward.' And then he got into the agency business and he was obviously my first choice.
"He calms me down. He knows me not only as a hockey player but as a person and it's really easy to talk to him about almost anything. He understands, when I'm playing bad, why I'm playing bad. He never really questions my opinions and gives his, which can be hard to find. I appreciate everything he's done. He's like a father-brother figure."
5. Your shootout winner in last summer's Allstate All-Canadians game (a NHLPA-organized event featuring Canada's best 15-year-old players) is shown in the promo for this season's event, is it weird seeing that?
"A lot of people have asked questions about it. It's pretty cool, being in a commercial at 16. It's one of those things you see and you don't believe it and then you're like, 'wow, I'm in a commercial.' They showed it during the ESPYs, which is pretty huge."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet .
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