Today the Maple Leafs announced another loan of a player, presumably a short-term loan until training camp begins.
Mac Hollowell, 22, is a right-shooting defender drafted by the Leafs out of the Soo Greyhounds in 2018 in the fourth round. He is about to enter the second year of his ELC when the new season begins.
The subject of a lot of hype based on his last years’ OHL points, he split his first pro season between the Marlies (12 points in 34 games) and the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL (13 points in 19 games).
A loan to the Mestis in Finland puts him in the “farm team” league below the Liiga. Today, the Leafs draft pick from a few weeks ago, 18-year-old Topi Niemelä is playing in a Liiga match after starting the year on the junior team. Mikko Kokkonen, 19 and Axel Rindell, 20, are the second pair defence on their Liiga team today as well. The older Hollowell is down a level from his younger competition.
Finland is seeing a flood of loans of Finns in the NHL, AHL and ECHL as well as non-Finns from all leagues. The Finnish teams will allow loans that expire when the NHL training camps begin, whereas the SHL in Sweden will not. That has left Allsvenskan teams in Sweden or Finnish Liiga teams as the only option for most North American players looking to play but not able or willing to play in the KHL.
The opportunities for all but top players are getting harder and harder to find, which may be part of the reason Hollowell is in a league that doesn’t usually lead to the NHL for players his age.
Prior to this loan, and using Elite Prospect’s figures on national origin, only four Canadians, one American and a handful of non-Finnish Europeans were in the Mestis. One of the Canadians is Alex Kerfoot’s brother Colton who has finished his Harvard career. He and Hollowell aren’t on the same team, however.
If nothing else, Hollowell will come away with a new set of coaching ideas, and a better understanding of the flood of Finnish defenders due to start showing up when the Leafs next have a prospect tournament. We all might end up with a better understanding of where this prospect fits in the Leafs system that has a lot of players fighting to be the next generation of Leafs defence.