With NHLers not permitted to participate at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Bejing next month, the door has been blown open for players who would otherwise not get the chance to participate.
Among those is Josh Ho-Sang. The Toronto Marlies forwards was one of several names on the list when Hockey Canada made their official announcement on Tuesday.
“We’re proud of him here,” Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza said of Ho-Sang’s Olympic nod. “He’s a guy that’s worked really hard to change the narrative around his game.”
Ho-Sang initially joined the Toronto Maple Leafs days before training camp opened in September on a professional tryout contract, but had been working out at the team’s practice facility since July.
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After impressing at camp both with how he conducted himself on and off the ice, Ho-Sang signed an AHL-only deal with the Toronto Marlies. The nature of his contract allowed the Thornhill, Ontario native to be eligible for Team Canada’s roster.
“He put himself in some uncomfortable positions in the summer where he had to work different and harder than he has in the past and did great,” Spezza said of Ho-Sang. “[He] came here with a great attitude and when you do that you win people over.”
Ho-Sang spent the previous season in the Swedish Hockey League where he was limited to just nine games through two different clubs. Since coming back to the North American ice surface, Ho-Sang has 11 goals and 20 points in 27 games with the Marlies this season and has received nothing but rave reviews during his time with the club.
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“He’s worked to get better and reestablish himself here in North America and he’s done a good job of that and recognition of the Olympics is obviously a very good thing,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said of Ho-Sang. “And I think all of this is through the work that he has put in, combined with, of course, the talent that he has.”
Ho-Sang last played a game on January 16 when he was injured after a hit to the head by Lehigh Valley Phantoms defender Adam Clendening. Three days later, Marlies head coach Greg Moore confirmed that Ho-Sang was diagnosed with a concussion.
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It’s not clear at this point where Ho-Sang’s health is at the moment, but his addition to Team Canada at the Olympics gives the squad a skilled and young forward who can be an offensive threat for the opposition.
“I haven’t watched him a ton with the Marlies, but when I have he looks dynamic and he looks like he’s committed,” Spezza said of Ho-Sang. “He put himself in some uncomfortable positions in the summer where he had to work different and harder than he has in the past and did great. Came here with a great attitude and when you do that you win people over. He has some fans in this room in the way that he came with his attitude.”
Could he be an option for the Maple Leafs afterwards?
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That’s the big question. Since spending time in the organization there has been speculation as to when, if at all, Ho-Sang could be an option for the Maple Leafs.
The NHL club has until trade deadline day (Mar. 21, 2022 at 3 p.m. ET) to sign Ho-Sang to an NHL contract in order to be eligible to participate for the club in the 2022 NHL playoffs, if needed.
Per PuckPedia.com, the Maple Leafs are currently at 48 out of the maximum allowable 50 NHL contracts this year. There is some room, but if the team looks to add some depth at other positions, space under that 50 number will be at a premium. Ho-Sang’s performance at the Olympics as well as other variables could go far in deciding where Ho-Sang ends up.
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Ho-Sang is also allowed to sign with any NHL team, so there is that element the club also has to consider.