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A year ago, Patrick Holland was a prospect on the rise after completing a
strong rookie season in Hamilton.  Today, even though there appears to be a
potential opening at right wing with the Canadiens, he’s rightfully not even
part of the discussion of who could fill that spot.  Between that and the
fact he is entering the final year of his entry-level deal, Holland is a
prospect with a lot to prove next season.

When he was acquired as part of the Mike Cammalleri trade in 2012, Holland
was in the middle of a dominant WHL season, one where he wound up leading the
league with 84 assists en route to a 109 point campaign.  He earned himself
an entry-level deal just a couple of months after being acquired and was looking
very much like a steal relative to where he was drafted (193rd overall in 2010
by the Flames).

In 2012-13, Holland had a decent pro debut, finishing fourth on the Bulldogs
in points.  That’s the good news, the bad is that just 28 points was good
enough to finish fourth on that team in scoring.  He earned more minutes as
the year went on and finished on somewhat of a high note (14 points in his last
20 games), suggesting that he was starting to turn the corner. 

The sophomore slump has felled many a prospect over the years and Holland was
no exception as we saw this past season.  Although he was called up to the
big club early on, that was more a result of his strong finish to the prior
campaign than it was due to a strong start (he had just one goal at the time of
his recall).  After a relatively uneventful five games with the Habs, he
was sent back and wasn’t heard from again the rest of the year.

With the Bulldogs last season, you could count on one hand the number of
players that actually played well but of all of the struggling players,
Holland’s issues may have been the most concerning.  He played rather
passively and couldn’t get anything going.  Before long, he was dropping
further and further down the depth chart.  Eventually, he was scratched for
the likes of Robert Czarnik and Jordan Owens, not exactly players that are going
to knocking on the door to the NHL anytime soon (perhaps not even the AHL for
that matter).  The final numbers weren’t pretty – just six goals and eleven
assists in 57 games.

The final nail in the proverbial coffin came when he wasn’t one of the ‘Black
Aces’ that was recalled for Montreal’s postseason run.  In a span of
months, Holland had gone from a player worthy of a call-up to an AHL scratch
that wasn’t worthy of even practicing with some of the other Bulldogs in May. 
That said, it’s far too early to throw him under the bus entirely as a prospect
but he will need to work on a lot of things to get back into the organizations’
good graces.  Here are some of the key areas he should focus on:

Assertiveness: Holland has never been a particularly aggressive
player, even dating back to his days in junior.  He has more or less been a
perimeter-based forward and up until last season, that worked for him.  It
won’t now; he’s not talented enough to get by on just skill alone.  He
needs to attack the net more and with a purpose.  He has shown he can be a
deft passer, making some of those slick plays around the net should result in
some more points.  Although it’s nice to be disciplined, recording just a
single penalty last year is a sign that he needs to be more involved physically.

Standout Skills: If I were to ask what the best way to describe
Holland’s game is, I suspect I’d get a variety of answers.  Is he a strong
playmaker like he was in junior?  Is he a reliable two-way forward as he
was in his rookie pro season?  Is he a defensive player as he showed he
could be with the Habs?  Right now, he’s a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ type of
player but master of none.  Finding a specific role or niche skill should
at least get Holland back into the discussion for a call-up depending on who
gets hurt with the big club.  It may not seem like much but that’s a big
step ahead of where he is currently.

Defensive Effort: This was an issue with a lot of Bulldogs last year
but Holland needs to be more consistent with his defensive effort.  I don’t
think his skill game is good enough to translate as a top-six forward in the
NHL.  If he’s going to make it, it’s probably going to be in a bottom six
role where a good defensive game is required.  He has shown that he is
capable of doing that in spurts.  The inconsistency played a role in him
getting benched late in the year with Hamilton and that needs to be improved
upon if he wants to be an important player this coming year.

Last year at July’s development camp, Holland was getting some attention as a
prospect on the rise with the Habs, one of the few bright spots on a last place
Hamilton team.  Fast forward to the current development camp and he’s
receiving nary a mention as he has been surpassed on the depth chart by several
recent acquisitions. 

If he’s on his game, what Holland brings to the table is something that
Montreal could use, a two-way forward with some upside.  We all saw what
Michael Bournival did last year and it’s not unfathomable to think that Holland
could provide a similar contribution.  But now, that seems farther away
than ever.  A good start to 2014-15 could get him back in the mix but a
poor one may seal his fate as a player that may not even warrant a qualifying
offer next summer.  Suffice it to say, Patrick Holland as a lot to prove
and not a lot of time to do so.