Toronto Maple Leafs: Justin Holl deserves a genuine shot

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 10: Justin Holl /

Justin Holl has only made two appearances for the Toronto Maple Leafs so far, but his brief spell with the team should give him a realistic shot at a permanent roster spot this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenceman Justin Holl has taken a long route towards reaching the NHL, having originally been selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2010 draft (54th overall).

Holl spent four seasons with the University of Minnesota before being brought into the Blackhawks’ system for the 2014-15 season, playing 66 games in the ECHL with the Indy Fuel – earning seven goals and 34 total points.

The right-handed blue liner then signed an AHL deal with the Toronto Marlies for the 2015-16 season as a free agent, impressing Leafs management enough, with 21 points (five goals and 16 assists) in 60 games, to be offered an initial one-year entry-level contract the following season.

In his three seasons playing for the Marlies, Holl has 84 points (24 goals and 60 assists) in 238 combined regular season and playoff appearances.

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He has established himself as one of the best defencemen on a Marlies team that won the Calder Cup for the first time in franchise history last season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed the big-bodied defenceman to a two-year contract this summer, which will see him hold a cap hit of just $675,000.

Holl’s performances also earned him a brief cameo with the NHL club last season, where he averaged 17:22 on the ice against the New York Islanders and New York Rangers.

While he only appeared in these two games in late January/early February, Holl’s performances should certainly give management pause for thought.

The two games that Holl featured in, the Leafs won 5-0 and 4-0 respectively, with him earning a goal in each game – both coming from his only shot of the game.

He had two combined hits, three blocked shots and had a +5 plus/minus rating, while also posting exceptional possession stats for the Leafs.

Despite 60 percent of his starts coming in the defensive zone, Holl still managed to post a 59% Corsi rating – the best of anyone to play for the Leafs last season.

When put into context, Martin Marincin, who is also expected to compete for a Leafs roster spot this season, played the same number of games as Holl, but had just a 44% Corsi rating.

Connor Carrick, who is provisionally penned in as the Leafs’ bottom pairing right-handed defenceman held a 52.6% Corsi in 47 games and should be the only player currently with the team who should keep Holl out of the line-up.

Skater Advanced Statistics Table
CF% rel
1Justin Holl2493459.01.1
8Connor Carrick4767560852.63.2
28Martin Marincin2222844.0-7.1

Holl’s spell with the team, while brief, came in two games that saw the Leafs earn back-to-back shut-outs while also seeing him make significant contributions towards the score – at both ends of the ice.

The 6-foot-3, 205 pounds blueliner also has impressive size and has earned his stripes in the minors, making the leap to the NHL the next step in his career.

With the right side of the Leafs defence needing some help, particularly with depth, giving Holl a shot at cementing his place in the team should be something that Mike Babcock considers this off-season.

Ron Hainsey has shown that he can’t keep up his solid performances across a full 82-game season anymore and rotating players could help keep the team’s defence fresh.

Holl is also a mature player at 26 years old and has already shown he is more than capable of making the leap if he is given the opportunity.

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What do you think Toronto Maple Leafs fans? Would you like to see Holl given a real chance to make the team this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!