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Having fun, Ho-Sang debuts with Sound Tigers

October 14, 2016 GMT

BRIDGEPORT — Practice was over, but as his teammates cooled down with drills or games, Josh Ho-Sang took a half-dozen pucks to the left circle in the harborside end of Webster Bank Arena.

He pulled one out of the pile, toe-dragged it to his right-handed forehand, then went backhand, forehand, backhand, forehand, and then we kind of lost track of the puck for a while before he released it toward the net.

There’s those hands. There’s the end-to-end rushes. There are the 80 points each of his last three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.

One of the most exciting prospects in hockey, Ho-Sang makes his debut Saturday with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at home against Providence. It’s his first chance as a pro to display for real the skills that have defined his game, but not himself.

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“I have fun,” Ho-Sang said. “I have too much fun sometimes. That’s probably my problem.

“I can turn little things on the ice into something I can play for hours, right? I was shooting pucks in the bucket with (Devon Toews), and we played that for 10 minutes.”

Later on in practice, with another pile of pucks, Ho-Sang aimed for the photographer’s hole in the glass from about 20 feet away. It took 10 tries or so, but a puck sailed through cleanly.

That was enough. He went to the door to the dressing room, remembered his spare stick was at the bench, got it, headed off.

“I turn everything into a game,” Ho-Sang said. “It’s an asset and a downfall. But it’s what’s gotten me here.”

What seems to have come with him is a lightning rod. The time he was kept on the bench late in a playoff game with his team trailing. The time Canada left him off the junior national team. When he slipped to 28th in the 2014 draft and the New York Islanders traded up to catch him.

“What’s in the past is past,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “He’s come with a great attitude. He’s been great here in our locker room. He’s a likeable kid.”

Ho-Sang does come across as bright, and straightforward.

“I don’t really think too much about what other people think of me,” Ho-Sang said. “I just want to help people in general. That’s part of the reason why I play hockey.

“It gives me a chance to find who I am as a person. I love hockey ... but I play hockey three hours a day. There’s 24.”

Time famously caught up to him at the first day of the Islanders’ 2015 training camp. Ho-Sang was late and was sent straight back to junior hockey.

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It’s not something he or Thompson dwell on, but on the first day of camp this year, Ho-Sang wasn’t afraid to have fun with himself, tweeting “I made it” with a picture of 17 alarm clocks. “That’s my sense of humor,” he said.

Ho-Sang said Bridgeport’s coaching staff has helped with his adjustment to the pro game, that Thompson and assistant Eric Boguniecki have helped him develop, and assistant Matt Carkner, just retired as a player, has made communication easy.

“I’m excited to have him,” Thompson said. “I’m excited to work with him, to develop him, work on what he needs to be in the NHL, the right habits away from the puck.”

What is Ho-Sang focused on?

“Just get better,” Ho-Sang said. “Just be so good they can’t send you down.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio

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