TORONTO -- Mac Hollowell got a taste of professional hockey late last season when he joined Toronto of the American Hockey League after concluding his junior career.
Now the Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman prospect is looking forward to returning to the minors in his first full professional season.
"Everybody always wants to make the Maple Leafs but I think my journey will start hopefully with the [Toronto] Marlies, so my focus will be on doing good things there and working my way up," Hollowell said at Maple Leafs development camp in late June.
"I learned a lot with the Marlies and I'm learning a lot here with the development staff. I'm just trying to bring everything into my summer routine which is going to be huge for me."
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Hollowell (5-foot-10, 163 pounds) had one assist in nine Calder Cup Playoff games with the Marlies last season after finishing his final season of junior hockey with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. He led OHL defensemen in scoring with 77 points (24 goals, 53 assists) in 64 games, and his production increased substantially from 2017-18, when he had 56 points (12 goals, 44 assist) in 63 games.
"[His progression] has been great," Maple Leafs senior director of player development Scott Pellerin said of Hollowell, who was picked in the fourth round (No. 118) of the 2018 NHL Draft.
"To throw him in there (the AHL playoffs) and to see how he was able to handle that pressure and what he was able to accomplish, he had to make some adjustments from roles he was playing in the Sault, but he's made it and we're happy with his progression."
The opportunity to play a big role on the power play allowed Hollowell to flourish offensively last season. He had 31 power-play points, up from 17 the previous season.
"I loved my last year there," Hollowell said. "They gave me all the opportunities I needed to be successful. Skill development I worked on throughout last summer, but just the opportunities I was given, power play and more minutes, really helped me take a jump forward."
The plan for Hollowell is to work on his strength over the summer, with the intention of adding weight to help him compete against men.
"There's definitely a difference from OHL to AHL, but I think I translated pretty well," Hollowell said. "It's just a matter of using your head a little bit more at the pro level."
Hollowell is looking forward to reuniting with his former Sault Ste. Marie teammate, defenseman Rasmus Sandin, who was picked in the first round (No. 29) by the Maple Leafs in the 2018 NHL Draft and spent last season with the Marlies.
"It depends what [Marlies] coach [Sheldon] Keefe wants but if he wants (us to play together), I think that would work well," Hollowell said. "I loved playing with Rasmus but it's whatever the coaching staff wants."