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2019 Leafs Prospect Rankings- The Fence Sitters: Mac Hollowell

Mac Hollowell

Position: RHD

Physical: Height: 5’10″ / 177 cm, Weight: 170 lbs / 77 kg

TLN Top-20 Ranking From Last Year: 19th

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Acquired: 4th round, 118th overall in 2018

Only one year removed from his draft year, fourth-round pick Mac Hollowell has quickly risen up the ranks and slotted himself into the third tier of our prospect rankings.

Last year, Hollowell led all Ontario Hockey League defencemen with 77 points in 64 games, along with 11 points in 11 playoff games. Not only did he earn himself an entry-level contract for his efforts, but Hollowell was also called up to the Toronto Marlies for their playoff run.

He’s a prospect Kyle Dubas is extremely familiar with, and one that Leafs fans should certainly keep an eye on.

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Why He Is In This Tier

In my opinion, there is no better example of a “fence-sitter” than Mac Hollowell. Using Mike Stephens’ article as a reference, a fence sitter is a prospect who has the potential to be an NHL player but also has an equal chance of falling into organizational irrelevance.

It’s important to remember that, even though Hollowell’s OHL production last season was impressive, he was still older than the majority of the league at 20-years-old. When we look into the history of past overage, high point-producing defensemen in the OHL, it starts to become apparent that Hollowell’s future success is not guaranteed.

Below are the top ten single-season point totals from a twenty-year-old in the OHL, from 2009-2019.

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Player Year Goals Points Points per game Current age Current team
Darren Raddysh 2016-2017 16 81 1.31 23 Hartford (AHL)
Mac Hollowell 2018-2019 24 77 1.20 20 Toronto (AHL)
Santino Centorame 2016-2017 7 73 1.08 23 St. Francis Xavier (USports)
Steve Tarasuk 2009-2010 19 67 1.00 29 Rapid City (ECHL)
Jake Muzzin 2009-2010 15 67 1.05 30 Toronto (NHL)
Nicolas Mattinen 2018-2019 18 61 0.90 21 U of Ottawa (USports)
Ryan Mantha 2016-2017 17 58 0.89 23 Bakersfield (AHL)
Jeff King 2016-2017 14 56 0.85 23 Idaho (ECHL)
Matthew Brassard 2018-2019 11 56 0.86 21 Niagara (OHL)
Colin Miller 2012-2013 20 55 1.02 26 Buffalo (NHL)

Although there are two obvious success-stories in Jake Muzzin and Colin Miller, the majority of these players are still trying to find their way into the NHL. There are also some players who look like their chances of making it are slim-to-none like Steve Tarasuk, and Santino Centorame.

Hollowell’s point-per-game rate is higher than most of his overage peers here, but if anything, this chart should tell you that offensive production by a 20-year-old in the OHL should be taken with a grain of salt.

When Hollowell got called up to the Toronto Marlies, he played quite well despite joining the team in the middle of the playoffs. It’s an encouraging sign but shouldn’t be used to draw any conclusions on Hollowell’s future, as he only played nine games with them. 

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Player Analysis: Strengths

Mac Hollowell seems to be the ideal prototype for what the Leafs are looking for in a defensive prospect. He is a cerebral puck-mover who can contribute offensively. Hollowell is small, but he stands out on the ice thanks to his skill-set.

Below, I feature a few major facets of Hollowell’s game that he thrives in.

Defensive Zone to Neutral Zone

Hollowell is an elite skater who succeeds mightily in transitioning the puck out of his own zone. He rarely gets shaken by incoming forecheckers due to his ability to create space for himself and make plays at a high speed.

Much like his good friend Rasmus Sandin, Hollowell has a lot of composure under pressure and can squeeze passes through tight spaces.

Hollowell’s awareness of his surroundings also helps him in all three zones. His understanding of the time and space of the game allows him to not only gain time for himself, but also for his teammates.

This clip below is a personal favourite of mine, as Mac Hollowell, Rasmus Sandin, and Jeremy Bracco work together to cleanly break out the puck. For obvious reasons, I am going to focus on Hollowell (#81) here. 

When the puck is dumped into the Marlies’ zone, we see Sandin (#8) skate back to collect it. Hollowell (#81) clearly sees the incoming forechecker coming in and strategically moves into his path, giving Sandin an extra second to make a play. After this, Hollowell moves into position to receive a pass from Bracco (#27).

I like to call this hockey’s version of a “pick-and-roll” and it’s something Hollowell and Sandin do quite often. It’s subtle, but it makes a huge difference.

As the play continues, Hollowell controls Bracco’s pass in mid-air, dekes around his opponent and then makes a backhand pass to Bracco. There is so much to like in this one clip.

Regaining the Offensive Zone

One unique aspect to Hollowell’s game is his motivation to regain the offensive-zone after the opposing team has cleared it. While most players will elect to either dump the puck back in the zone or regroup, Hollowell sees it as an opportunity to create a clean entry.

Hollowell reminds us here that his elite skating isn’t just applied to his straightaway speed. He also has fantastic edge-work, lateral quickness and can change speeds with ease.

Puck-Moving Creativity 

As previously mentioned, Hollowell is a very cerebral player. He always seems to be two steps ahead of his opponents when his team has the puck. His movement after receiving and making passes is purposeful and is a huge reason for his offensive success.

Here, we see his patience as he waits for the play to develop. Hollowell picks out the perfect time to fire off a cross-ice pass.

Hollowell also teaches us that passes don’t have to be tape-to-tape in order to be effective.

Offensive Zone Rover

When Hollowell is in the offensive zone, he actively looks to get involved in whatever way he can. He makes good reads and can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Hollowell is at his best when he’s wandering around in the offensive zone, filling in spaces and giving defenders another threat to worry about.

Aggressive Defensive Style

As we transition to Hollowell’s defensive game, there is a lot to like on the surface. Hollowell plays a very aggressive style when he doesn’t have the puck. He doesn’t shy away from jumping up into the rush and often pinches to hold the puck in the offensive zone. Thanks to his skating, Hollowell knows that he has the speed to recover defensively if he needs to.

In addition, Hollowell is consistently aggressive when he’s defending in one-on-one situations. While some defenders are more comfortable shadowing their opponent and forcing them outside, Hollowell looks to close the gap between him and his opponent as soon as he can.

Player Analysis: Weaknesses

Despite being an intriguing prospect, it’s important to remember that Hollowell still has a lot of room to improve, especially if he wants to be called up to the Toronto Maple Leafs one day.

In contrast to the last section, Hollowell’s offensive mindset can get him in trouble. At times, Hollowell is too eager to jump in the rush and if his team is unable to progress the puck up the ice, he gets caught. Furthermore, in one-on-one situations, Hollowell gets beat if his initial attempt at the puck misses. His speed can sometimes allow him to recover, but when he can’t get back, it leads to a dangerous scoring chance.

Despite being quite physical for a small player, Hollowell would benefit from gaining some muscle this off-season to help him win battles against professional hockey players. He is going to find it more difficult to put up big offensive numbers at the AHL level and is going to have to develop his defensive game if he wants to move up the ranks with the Marlies.

Final Thoughts:

I am usually high on defensive prospects who can skate and move the puck and Hollowell is certainly not an exception. When looking at the Leafs organizational depth chart, there aren’t too many young options at right defence. Joseph Duszak and Eemeli Rasanen are potential threats but it looks like Hollowell has already surpassed them despite being younger.

Looking forward, I see Hollowell’s skill-set fitting-in very nicely with the way the Toronto Marlies play. He’s likely going to start the year in a sheltered third-pairing role but I’m interested to see if he can move up the lineup as the year goes on. In order for that to happen Hollowell is going to have to improve defensively if he wants Keefe to use him in tougher situations. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollowell slips into a powerplay unit once Sandin and/or Liljegren get called up and his value to the Marlies will further increase if he is able to kill penalties.

As an optimist, I see Hollowell spending the next few years with the Marlies before being called up to the Leafs. I don’t think he will be a penalty killer at the NHL-level and it seems unlikely he will be used on the powerplay when the Leafs will have Morgan Rielly, Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren and possibly Tyson Barrie as quarterback options. Hollowell’s value will have to come as a possession driver at 5v5. A player that can chip in offensively against weak competition and with a high amount of offensive zone starts.

As mentioned before, any potential call-up to the Leafs is years away, but Hollowell’s skill-set makes him an interesting prospect to watch going forward. Thanks for reading.


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