Today, two players waived by the Maple Leafs, Joey Anderson and Mac Hollowell have both cleared waivers. While it’s not a surprise that Hollowell has cleared, and looks to be a solid and talented AHL defender, the trajectory of Anderson’s career isn’t exactly what we had hoped for.

Hollowell was drafted 118th overall in 2018 — his second year of draft eligibility — as a right-shooting defender on the Soo Greyhounds. He was taken in the same draft as Sean Durzi, another righty defender taken in the second round. They became linked in our minds, and maybe that linkage raised up Hollowell’s profile a little. The Leafs also made a fuss over him at various times, showing him in off-ice activities, and treating him like a top prospect.

Hollowell’s real twin on the ice was not Durzi — sent to LA in the Muzzin trade — but Joe Duszak, a free agent who rose on the Marlies to equal prominence with Hollowell offensively, while sharing his lack of defensive ability. Duszak wasn’t given a qualifying offer, and did not find an NHL contract, so he left to play hockey for Dinamo Minsk. Meanwhile the drafted Hollowell, one year younger at 24 and nearing his peak age of performance as a player, was given a one year minimum salary contract that will pay him $150,000 in the minors.

The Marlies need defencemen, but it seems likely that when this contract expires, and Hollowell is still an RFA, he will have to decide where his career in hockey will take him. He’s now twinned with Marshall Rifai, a college free agent on an AHL contract, who had a rough opening game in the preseason but settled down into a surprisingly effective defender. It’s not impossible that Hollowell progresses towards and NHL career, but the example of Justin Holl is there to show how unlikely it is, not that it’s in the cards.

Anderson is a different story, but it might end the same. Anderson is also 24, but was drafted in 2016 73rd overall by the New Jersey Devils. The struggling Devils, who never had enough players, played him in the NHL for 52 games over two seasons, and that partly led to some expectations when the Leafs took him back in the Andreas Johnson trade. (Note: he seems to have dropped the second s in his name.)

At the time Johnson was traded one-for-one for Anderson, in the offseason of 2020, and just as firm dates had been set for the beginning of the delayed 2020-2021 season, we didn’t even mention Anderson in our headline:

Leafs trade Andreas Johnsson to New Jersey

Johnson was also on waivers yesterday, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me. He has performed decently in New Jersey, allowing for natural fluctuation in goals scored, and he is in the final year of a contract that is legitimately an overpay. It is possible the Devils have youth to promote or it’s part of some roster juggling ahead of putting a player on LTIR. But it is clear that the Leafs powerful offence cast a pleasant glow on Johsnon’s abilities that didn’t carry over to a new team. The deal was, in hindsight, an excellent contract dump in order to fit TJ Brodie on the roster. It was considered by many at the time to be evidence of Kyle Dubas, bad negotiator.

In hindsight, that gloss on Johnson might have transferred to Anderson a little. He’s had a dull and uninspiring training camp performance after a good AHL year last season. Maybe it wasn’t his moment, or maybe good AHLer is where he’s at as well. He was definitely outshone rather intensely by Denis Malgin and Nick Robertson. He was also outplayed on the basics by Pontus Holmberg and Alex Steeves. Just as Filip Král has taken over from Hollowell as the best drafted defence prospect on the Marlies, so have those four (ouch) forwards supplanted Anderson.