Taking overagers in the draft has never been my thing. It’s a bad philosophy to have as a blanket rule, but generally there is a lot of appeal in getting players with more development time available, and many of those overagers will still be available as free agents the following spring. Now, my personal drafting preference really isn’t the point of this post, except to acknowledge that in the particular instance it might have put me on the wrong side of history as Mac Hollowell seems to be developing nicely.
Hollowell is another player that is undersized by pro hockey standards, as he’s only 5’10 and 170 lbs. He’s not going to be an intimidating, bruising defensemen, and while I can appreciate the need for smart physical play on the blueline, Mac Hollowell’s skillset is important as well, and having a smart capable puck moving who can quarterback powerplays, and drive offense from the blueline.
Hollowell came to the Leafs via the Soo Greyhounds, a team that both Dubas and Keefe have plenty of familiarity with and there’s something to be said about going with a player you know and from a system you know. While Hollowell played on stacked teams, with stacked bluelines, they would likely know if Hollowell was doing more of the heavy lifting than what might have been captured by scouts or stats, and using a fourth round pick on Hollowell would be perfectly reasonable. Certainly his junior boxcar stats speak to him coming into his own, and last season he wasn’t out of place in the ECHL and didn’t take too long to find his offensive footing in the AHL either, although his time with the Marlies certainly points to the fact that Hollowell is both a skilled play maker with good vision, but equally struggles when the puck comes back the other way.
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.
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.
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.
What’s next for Hollowell, well. The right side of the Marlies blueline is all expected to return with the important exception of Timothy Liljegren likely to be a full time Leaf. This is going to create an abundance of competition for powerplay time for Duszak and Hollowell to fight over, as well as to compete for the coveted top pairing assignment, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Duszak takes on that role as time is much more of a friend to Hollowell.
Hollowell remains an interesting project and looks capable of fitting in with the long term plans of what Kyle Dubas wants the Leafs blueline to be. There’s definitely work to be done in the defensive zone, but if the ultimate goal is to create an offensive option sheltered on the third pairing, Hollowell has the potential to be a good fit.