10/25/2012 7:12 AM
Story By: Stuart McComish
HAMILTON, ONT. – Patrick Holland has always considered himself a late bloomer.
Chosen by the Tri-City Americans as a 5’6”, 112-pound right winger in the sixth round of the 2007 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, the 20-year-old native of Lethbridge, Alta. blossomed into a player who skated in 205 games over five seasons.
“I think I have a long way to go and I know I have a lot to improve on,” Holland said after the Hamilton Bulldogs wrapped up a recent practice at Copps Coliseum. “I look at that as a good thing and I feel I am nowhere near fully developed and I have so much potential in me that I would like to achieve and I hope that brings me to the National Hockey League.”
Tabbed by the Calgary Flames in the seventh round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Holland’s rights were traded to the Montreal Canadiens last January 12th as part of the deal that saw Rene Bourque swapped for Michael Cammalleri. Holland signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canadiens on March 7th.
“I had no idea that the trade would happen,” said Holland, who now stands six feet tall and weighs 175 pounds. “I was surprised and it was a surreal moment. I signed a few months after that and then went to my first camp with the Canadiens and I found myself far more comfortable with the guys in Montreal.
“I think there is some weight that goes into what round you were drafted in, it’s part of the process. I felt being traded removed the stigma that I was a seventh-round pick and I just became another guy with the same opportunities as anybody else.”
While he was caught off guard by the move to the Canadiens, Holland said he preferred to look at the positive side of the trade.
“There’s two ways to look at being traded: you can look at it and think your old team didn’t want you but a new team does want you. I chose to look at it like the Canadiens wanted me and I felt really fortunate. They took a chance on me and I now have to prove to the organization, the fans and my teammates that they did the right thing.”
Holland has wasted little time making an impact with the Bulldogs, scoring his first professional goal in the second period of last Friday night’s 4-1 win over the visiting Toronto Marlies. He also collected an assist on Aaron Palushaj’s third-period power-play goal and has now recorded three points (one goal, two assists) in four games.
Holland, who played two games for the Americans before leaving for the Bulldogs’ camp, recorded 63 goals and 145 assists for 208 points in his junior career. He led the WHL with 84 assists in 2011-2012 and finished sixth in league scoring with 109 points. Holland contributed 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points in 46 playoff games.
“Junior hockey gets you more ready for the pros than minor hockey gets you ready for junior. You have been through so much by the time you get here. There was a part of me that thought entering the pros would be like entering junior, but, to me, it’s nothing like that. I am more mature as a person and a player and going to the pros is a much easier transition.”
Holland said he has become comfortable in his new home.
“I didn’t really know what to expect here, but the guys are great and the staff has been really good to me. I’m having a blast so far, I am just really looking forward to this season. We’re here to play the game and we can have some fun too, I think that’s part of the job. You want to become a family and make some friends here.”
Holland acknowledged that there are still areas of his game that require work.
“There are some things I have been struggling with and I expected that. It’s a bit of a cliché, but you don’t have as much time as you might be used to and you need to make your decisions quicker. Confidence is a big thing. I thought I’d have to move the puck really quickly here, but for me to be good at what I am good at I have to have the confidence to make plays and be confident in the plays I do make.”
Holland said the talent level of the players in the American Hockey League makes the game a little easier to play.
“Your teammates and linemates are much quicker and in the right spots more often here than they are in junior. On the other side, defensively players are a lot quicker and they are in the right spots and make fewer mistakes. Since there are fewer mistakes at this level I think it’s the teams that can capitalize on the ones that are made that will be the best teams.
“The lockout isn’t ideal for anybody, but it really raises the talent level of the AHL and that’s great for guys like me. I will really be able to learn a lot from those guys who have been in the NHL, just by watching them on the ice during games or practices or off the ice in the weight room.”