Justin Holl is finally getting a chance with the Maple Leafs, even if it is just as last-minute insurance. The team has recalled the defenseman under emergency conditions, placing Roman Polak on injured reserve with a viral infection, and labeling Ron Hainsey as a game-time decision due to an illness.
Holl was a second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, but after spending four seasons at the University of Minnesota failed to land an NHL contract. Instead, he worked through two years of AHL contracts before signing a one-year entry-level deal with the Maple Leafs in the summer of 2016. For the past three years, he’s been a huge part of the Toronto Marlies blue line and is having the best offensive season of his professional career with 20 points in 39 games.
The 26-year old can skate very well for a player of his size, and actually takes more risks than you’d expect. If he does get into the Maple Leafs lineup tonight, it would be his NHL debut and could even lineup beside Travis Dermott, who he has played with at times in the minor leagues. As we discussed in Jack Johnson’s recent trade profile, the Toronto defense depth is razor thin as evidenced by this call up.
Nikita Zaitsev is returning to the lineup for the first time since December 15th, and will likely have to handle quite a bit right away. Hainsey and Polak have been the team’s main penalty killing options with Zaitsev out, a role that would now have to be split among the other defenders.