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Maple Leafs' Top 25 Under 25: #7 Peter Holland

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Peter Holland joins this year's T25U25 as he enters his sixth season of professional hockey, fresh off career highs in goals, assists and points.

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Peter Holland has played over 100 games in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but I don't know if we really know what he is yet.

Holland was acquired during the 2013-14 season when injuries down the middle to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland left the team desperately thin. Holland, at the time trying in vain to break into the Anaheim Ducks NHL roster, was acquired for a draft pick that was unnecessarily inflated due to poor lineup decisions. While largely limited in his usefulness, he showed flashes of being able to hold down an NHL roster spot. While he accomplished that, he definitely left us wanting more.

Over the past four seasons Holland, a former 1st round pick in the 2009 draft, has slowly integrated himself into the NHL, seeing his games played climb from 4 to 25 to 43 (cut short because of a nasty case of lace bite) to 62 last season, while at the same time his point totals rose from 1 to 5 to 11 to 25 points last season, as he became the normal 3rd centre option on the Leafs (behind Bozak and Nazem Kadri).

In brief spurts, Holland got opportunities to play on the top line with the skilled wingers the Maple Leafs had to offer, and he performed admirably.

The above HERO charts illustrate a big reason for my disappointment at the team's decision to re-sign Tyler Bozak to a long-term contract. The Leafs have lacked a top-flight centre ever since Mats Sundin left, and while they have had a couple of very capable centres (NIk Antropov, Matt Stajan, MIkhail Grabovski, Nazem Kadri has developed into one), they've lacked the sort of focal point that you can build around, to compete against other teams that throw the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar at you.

That's not to say that Holland's going to become that level of player - far from it. But, if you can't get the absolute best, in a salary cap world you should probably strive for the best value. And for all his faults, Tyler Bozak served as a decent value option when he was making roughly the league average salary to put up just shy of 50 points and pal around with Phil Kessel. It was only when the amount of money changed that sticking with Bozak became a real problem.

To date in his career, Peter Holland's proven he can at least be a facsimile of Bozak (also keep in mind that those HERO charts compare Bozak as a 27-29 year old and Holland as a 22-24 year old). Peter Holland's 24 years old, has four years of pro hockey experience and just put up 25 points in 62 games of limited offensive opportunities on a pretty terrible team.

At 24 years old, Bozak was playing his first year of pro hockey and was decent with the Marlies before exploding for 20 points in 32 games in a late-season stint with the 2009-10 Maple Leafs. Maybe Holland can't quite match Bozak's offensive capabilities, but we'll never know unless he gets an opportunity.

And it's worth remembering that Bozak only got his opportunity because that sad-sack Leafs team moved out the "just okay" centres (Antropov and Stajan) that were blocking his progression up the lineup. You can't get better if you just stand pat. As the Maple Leafs enter a rebuilding phase, they can do everything that they to make the transition for Mitch Marner, William Nylander go as smoothly as possible. But in the meantime, guys like Richard Panik and Peter Holland should be getting an opportunity to prove that they're worth keeping around in meaningful roles, at least for a little while.

For finishing 7th in our list, Holland's rankings are actually fairly divisive. There was a clear top 5 on our list that accounted for all 70 possible top 5 votes, and Holland received three 6th place votes and another five 7th place votes. But three other voters had him 10th or worse.

Unlike past editions, we haven't really had much in the way of close races like we've had in the past. We had a tie way back at 20th on our list, where Carter Verhaeghe got one slightly higher vote than Dmytro Timashov, and at 17 where Taylor Beck finished just two points ahead of #18 Nikita Soshnikov. Since then everything has been fairly spread out. Holland missed out on 6th place by a single point, by virtue of the split of votes described above.