Breaking: Leafs defenceman named to AHL All-Star game

Congrats, well earned! Maybe now he’ll finally get a call-up?

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Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, defenceman Justin Holl has been named to the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic! Congrats, Justin!

The 25-year-old Holl will replace teammate Travis Dermott, who is unavailable to represent the Marlies thanks to his recall by the Leafs. In 37 games with the Marlies this season, the 6’3”, 205 lb blue liner has put up an impressive four goals and 18 points. He’s a big, smooth skating defenceman who is equally adept at shutting down the opposition and breaking the puck up ice.

Oh… and did we mention that he’s a right-handed shot? Could Holl’s All-Star nod finally earn him an NHL call-up from the Leafs? The former 2nd round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks has yet to make his NHL debut, but with the way things are shaking down on the Leafs blue line the past month, anything is possible. After all… Roman Polak is still putting up big time minutes.

Holy will join Marlies teammate Kasperi Kapanen and head coach Sheldon Keefe on Team North Divsion for the AHL’s annual All-Star showcase event slated for January 28-29th in Utica, New York. 

Komarov and Kadri splitsville?

In other Leafs news, forwards Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri may be headed for an on-ice breakup. Best friends on and off the ice, have been playing together on a line almost nightly since 2015-16. Now that may all be coming to an end, though.

Leafs head coach Mike Babcock split up the pair during yesterday afternoon’s practice and confirmed to reporters afterwards that the two Leafs pugilists will skate apart when they take on the Blackhawks tonight at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. In fact, it looks like Babcock’s plan is the break up Komarov and Kadri for Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars, as well. But, don’t expect the experiment to last forever. Babcock admitted that he’ll likely pair Komaro and Kadri back together once the Leafs return back home from their brief road trip.

Are we really surprised by this move though? Babcock has shown, if nothing else, that he likes to go with what he knows. The Komarov/Kadri duo hasn’t been particularly effective for the month of January, but it still provides the head coach with a sense of certainty. You know what you’ll get from those two together on a nightly basis… or at least you used to.

So, how do things shake down then? Kadri remains in his current spot as the team’s 2nd line center, while Komarov moves down to a 4th line spot. Sophomore Mitch Marner moves up in the lineup to play alongside Kadri and veteran Patrick Marleau. Interestingly enough Komarov slides into Matt Martin’s spot on the 4th line, who will likely sit in the press box for tonight’s matchup.

To be honest, that’s some real balance amongst the Leafs lines. Each line has some scoring puck and that 4th line has more bite than you might expect. Rookie Kapanen has all the makings of a young Komarov, so it’ll be interesting to see how the two Finns complement each other on the ice.

Yesterday’s AHL call-up Rinat Valiev, a 22-year-old Russian defenceman, is expected to watch the game from the press box, as well.

Puck drop is tonight at 8pm ET in Chicago! Go, Leafs, go!