Minten vs. Holmberg, who should be in for the Maple Leafs?

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
7 months ago
Fraser Minten is more or less still with the Maple Leafs. He’s been scratched the last couple of games and played 8:31 the game prior. The scratches probably make more sense than the 8:31 of ice time as keeping Minten out of the lineup completely means that Toronto still has a bit of time before Minten hits that 9 game mark that leads to an important decision on whether or not he should stay in the NHL and the Leafs will burn a year off of his entry level contract.
While Minten has been scratched the Leafs have recalled Pontus Holmberg. Holmberg was a solid bottom six player for the Leafs last season before they opted to go the trade route and seek out roster upgrades. Arguably the Leafs never found anyone who was clearly better than Holmberg and giving Holmberg another shot early this season makes a lot of sense as well.
Both Minten and Holmberg are presently in competition for the 4th centre spot on the Leafs at the moment. Ideally I think the Leafs would like to see both players utilized more than just as Ryan Reaves’ centre, but the reality of the situation is that for Holmberg having him in that role it seems like a little less of a misuse of assets to have him there than Minten.
Minten wasn’t really being used as a fourth liner up until his final game before being scratched. With the Leafs top nine looking a lot more sorted in the past couple of games likely makes his path back in a little more difficult as well.
Here’s how both have performed so far this season for the Leafs along with David Kampf (who still has his numbers heavily weighted by his games as the 4C):
CF% 5v548.5350.0045.61
xG% 5v552.1038.8536.22
So the thing with Minten is that he has seen the lowest percentage of his time with Gregor and Reaves. Kampf’s time on the 4th line definitely has had an impact on his numbers and Holmberg’s numbers are pretty good verification that the Leafs fourth line is going to be a work in progress. Putting Minten in that situation seems like a “why bother?” situation as well. Despite the fact that Minten looks to have better numbers so far compared to Holmberg, the Leafs fourth line is not putting a rookie in a place where he can be successful.
Does it make sense to keep Minten around at all?
So far the Leafs have been pretty insistent on keeping Ryan Reaves in the lineup. That might not always be the case and if Toronto is going up against a team that isn’t particularly physical they might opt to sit Reaves. Looking at a fourth line without Reaves would open up the opportunity to try Minten between Knies and Domi or they could see how Minten looks with Gregor and Holmberg.
The reality is that the Leafs are probably pretty close to returning Minten to junior and that is probably the best option. Toronto might be waiting to see if Tyler Bertuzzi’s injuries will require him to miss some time and if that is the case it opens up top nine forward ice time which makes sense for Minten. If it looks like Bertuzzi will be able to play his way through what is ailing him it could just be a matter of letting Minten wrap up his first NHL road trip.
It’s also worth noting that no matter what Minten’s contract will take effect next season so there is no need to keep a few games to test him out next season. Toronto might intend to burn the nine games they can before making a decision but aren’t in a rush to get there. While Minten might not be playing a lot there is certainly a developmental benefit to keeping him practicing with the Leafs and near their skills coaches.

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