Looking to make the leap: Peter Holland

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Is this the year for Peter Holland to finally establish himself as a full-time NHLer?

Probably. But it won’t be easy.

Holland, the 15th overall pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, should benefit from Toronto’s thinned-out center position. Two middle men from last season — Jay McClement and Dave Bolland — have signed elsewhere, and the offseason additions of Mike Santorelli (coming off major shoulder surgery) and Petri Kontiola (hasn’t played an NHL game in six years) aren’t exactly sure things.

According to Steve Spott — head coach of the AHL Marlies — Holland is.

“He’s an NHL centerman,” Spott said during the Calder Cup playoffs, per the National Post. “I firmly believe that. His skill set, his vision, is elite for this level. We’ll enjoy him for as long as we have him.”

How long the Marlies have Holland remains to be seen. After coming over from Anaheim last November, he bounced back and forth between the minors and NHL, scoring five goals and 10 points in a career-high 39 games for the Leafs before falling out of favor late in the season — following a rough three-game stretch in mid-March where his ice time dipped below 10 minutes a night, Holland played just once more for the Leafs down the stretch (a 1-0 loss to Ottawa on Apr. 12) and spent most of his time suiting up for the Marlies.

Now, he’s looking to stay in the bigs all season long.

Holland has a few things working in his favor on that front. The first is his contractual status, per the Toronto Sun:

Holland is almost assured of starting the season with the Leafs. The reason? Leafs are convinced they’d lose him on waivers if they tried to send him to the minors and they aren’t willing to lose Holland at this time.

Holland inked a two-year, $1.55 million extension with the Leafs in July, the first one-way contract of his career. That should give him a leg up on the competition, though it remains to be seen how he’ll fare in the wake of heavy competition up front.

While Toronto’s depth at center isn’t all that great, there are a slew of forwards on NHL deals (15, per CapGeek) and competition will be stiff at camp. Holland will also need to establish himself in the eyes of head coach Randy Carlyle — who, lest we forget, was the one that ultimately dropped Holland out of the lineup last year — and prove that he’s capable of being an every-night player.

The opportunity to make the leap is there, but there’s still work to be done.

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.