It seems like every NHL fan knew what was wrong with the Maple Leafs – a lack of depth at center that became problematic after the team lost its top-3.
The team tried everything. They gave veteran Jerred Smithson an NHL contract for his faceoff ability after the center had played for the Marlies. They tried moving JVR to center – that resulted in a 5-game goalless streak. They called up from the minors Trevor Smith, who was serving at the Marlies captain.
But the Leafs may have added a player this week that could make a big splash down the road.
C Peter Holland
F Brad Staubitz
D Jesse Blacker
2014 3rd round pick (2nd round if Holland plays 25 games this season)
2014 7th round pick
Who did Toronto get?
Holland is a former first-round pick and has failed to stick onto the Ducks’ roster. He seemed to fall out of favor with the organization due to his consistency issues. Through 30 NHL games thus far, he has only accrued 7 points.
Part of the reason why he never really broke into the big league is because of the Ducks’ depth. In previous years, Holland could not outperform Ryan Getzlaf, Nick Bonino and Saku Koivu for the top three spots. The organization made a decision to keep Holland in the minors so he could get consistent ice time.
In an AHL role, Holland did very well for himself. From 2011-2013, Holland logged 99 points through 116 games. At just 22 years old, Holland still has plenty of upside and could very well become an NHL regular given the right opportunity. That opportunity now presents itself in Toronto.
So Far, So Good
It’s hard to complain about Holland’s play in his first game. He only logged 11:43 of ice time, but was still able to get off 2 shots. Most notably, he 63.64% of his faceoffs, which was not easy considering his line of Kessel and JVR were often out against the opposition’s top centers.
It’s also great to see JVR back in his regular left wing position. He scored the first two goals of the game in the first period, and that had to be a monkey off his back after his drought.
It’s a bit odd to see a younger player like Holland experience so much success in the faceoff dot – one has to wonder if that might regress given a few more games, and perhaps against tougher opposition. Cody Hodgson is a good player, but he was never really considered amongst the elite faceoff men. What will happen when Holland is out there against Patrice Bergeron? Tomas Plekanec?
One decent game against the Sabres does not define an NHL player’s career.
What Toronto Gave Up
With the abundance of depth on defense, it’s not surprising to see Jesse Blacker moved. The defenseman has value, and I considered him as a good prospect. Hopefully, he gets a shot with the Ducks in the near future. If Toronto can retain Phaneuf and Franson (for the right price) and continue the development of Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, this time does not need to worry about its blueline for a few years.
The 2nd/3rd round pick is not just a throw-in, obviously. With the way Bolland’s injury is looking, and the lack of center prospects in the AHL, Holland will very likely play the whole season with the big club. That 3rd, in my opinion, is almost certain to become a 2nd. A 2nd rounder could very well translate into a capable NHL player, and we’ve seen plenty of player chosen in this range develop into stars. P.K. Subban and Logan Couture come to mind.
In the end, it’s up to Holland’s development to decide if this deal was worth it. I believe the deal was a necessary one, not just due to the injuries, but also because the Leafs truly did not have many prospects at the center position. There’s a reason we drafted big center Fredrik Gauthier this year with our first round pick. It will be a few years before the big Frenchman can contribute, but until then, let’s see what Holland can do.
Alex is a Lead Writer for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since joining the Hockey Writers, he has also briefly covered the Carolina Hurricanes. He also currently works as an assistant for the Western Mustangs at the University of Western Ontario. Follow him on Twitter @alexmai11.