Toronto Maple Leafs: Justin Holl looking to stand out at training camp

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 10: Justin Holl /

Justin Holl sees his opportunity to make the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it will not come easily with a lot of competition coming into training camp.

There will be many battles to watch when the Toronto Maple Leafs open up training camp next week, but none will be more crucial than on the blueline.

As of right now, the only spot that is open for the taking is the one vacated by Roman Polak‘s departure in the offseason. While there are many options for Mike Babcock to sort through, one player will try to stand out from the rest.

After three seasons with the Toronto Marlies, Justin Holl is expected to aim to take the step with the Leafs at training camp. Many are giving him the best odds, because of what he’s shown with the Marlies.

An advantage Holl already has is the fact he’s a right-handed shot which is something the Leafs need. especially on the bottom pairing. The problem he will have is trying to separate himself from some of the players who already have NHL experience.

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Connor Carrick is one of those players who present the biggest challenge for Holl, despite so far being unable to crack the lineup full-time. According to Kristen Shilton of TSN, the 24-year-old spent the offseason working out in Chicago with a group of players which included Patrick Kane.

There’s also Igor Ozhiganov who the Leafs signed from the KHL during the offseason, who has been working out with players during informal team sessions. Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun reported that the Leafs coaching staff was impressed with the Russian’s abilities and he could find himself in a similar position as fellow countryman Nikita Zaitsev.

This is the immediate competition Holl has to prepare for, but sometimes the best approach is to not worry about that and focus on your own game.

"“There’s a lot of good defencemen in this organization, and we’re going to be battling for a couple spots,” Holl told Luke Fox of Sportsnet. “Bottom line is, I have to play as well as I can, and if that happens, I feel pretty good about my game.”"

Even if Holl doesn’t make the starting lineup, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t get consideration for the seventh defenceman spot and step in for injuries or poor performance.

He received a two-year deal for a reason; the team obviously likes the work he has done from the moment he joined the Marlies. If he can play on the penalty kill and use his big asset, which is his skating ability, it brings some stability to the bottom pairing and, hopefully, it helps the Leafs’ blueline trend in the right direction for a change.

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What are your thoughts on Holl’s chances to make the team? Who poses the biggest threat to him in training camp? Let us know in the comments below.