The last episode of this series took a look at one of the Leafs’ top left wing prospects: Brendan Leipsic. Please ensure that you’ve taken a look at the introduction to this series before diving in!
Today we’re going to take a look at Marlies defenseman Justin Holl. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure Justin Holl deserved his own episode within this series. Of the masses of Leafs nation, the percentage of whom are excited about Justin Holl is pretty limited.
But let me tell you, there’s good reasoning to be looking closely at Justin Holl.
Justin Holl is the Marlies’ #1 right-handed defenseman. He is also essentially their only capable right handed defenseman. Holl plays generally with either Andrew Campbell or Andrew Nielsen. It’s not hard to see that Justin Holl meshes well with people named Andrew. He played a lot of the very tough matchups for the Marlies, especially during a time when their sticks just weren’t finding the back of the net.
Justin Holl was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2nd round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, out of the U of Minnesota hockey program. Justin Holl only lasted one year after college within the Blackhawks’ ranks on an AHL contract. Justin Holl was let go after that season and picked up by the Toronto Marlies on another AHL deal. Heading into the 2016-17 season, the Leafs offered Justin Holl his first, and entry level contract, just for the one year.
Once again, I have to resort to goal-based analysis when it comes to AHL players. This isn’t completely useless as there is a certain level of analytical value to goal-based stats, so we’ll make the most of it here.
Justin Holl hasn’t been a dominant force in the AHL when it comes to scoring individual points. At 5v5, Justin Holl has just 0.22 points per game, which is good for 100th in the AHL among defensemen with 20 games played. Certainly not Holl-of-Fame quality there.
Justin Holl also has not been favoured well when it comes to on-ice GF%. Over the course of the Holl season, Justin Holl has been a -8.45 GF% rel player. His typical partners, Nielsen and Campbell, are much higher in that particular stat, which does not reflect well on Justin Holl.
However, given the above context with regards to quality of competition, it’s not hard to see how Holl’s numbers might not be flattering. For instance,
The statistics don’t reflect well on Holl’s ability to be impactful at the NHL level. The Leafs could have the same perspective, or they could have a little more hope for Justin Holl. It would be logical to think that, given that Holl was buried as the Marlies’ only RHD, the Leafs might have higher hope for him in a more favourable situation. Here’s my guesses at what could happen:
Optimistic: 1 year AHL contract
Realistic: $625k, 1 year 2-way contract
Pessimistic: $700k x 1 year, 2 way
I think, given the likely league perspective on Holl, the Leafs should try to get away with only signing him to an AHL contract. However, it would also be reasonable to jump the gun and go for a standard pro contract. This is primarily due to the fact Justin Holl is one of very few options the Leafs have for RHD depth. The chances of them needing to call him up at some point are pretty high so why not give him the NHL deal?
Secondly, with his ability to face top competition in the AHL, he shows a potential for surviving against typical NHL 3rd pairing competition as well. I don’t think that he’ll be a top 4 defenseman, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect him to be capable of a contributing role on an NHL team.
Tomorrow brings the finale of this year’s RFA series with Zach Hyman, so please be sure to read that as well.