The steady defenceman was acquired in the Evgenii Dadonov trade
Nick Holden is a 35, left-shot defender who can play both sides. He was in a trade that sent Evgenii Dadonov to the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Joining the Ottawa Senators marks the sixth team he has been on during his NHL career.
Nick Holden’s story to the NHL is an interesting one. He had a plumbing apprenticeship before joining the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL as an undrafted player. This is what he said about the apprenticeship in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I actually really enjoyed it so that was my backup plan if hockey didn’t work out. I was going to do my plumbing and be a plumber.” Well, his career in hockey turned out just fine, playing for five teams up until now.
In his second year with the Bruins, he was signed to a three-year entry-level contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets and played with them for the next eight years before leaving and singing with the Colorado Avalanche. He played with the team for three years and played his 100th career game with the team. In 2016, he was traded to the New York Rangers and in his first season with the team, he put up career highs in goals and points. In the next 5 years, he played for two more clubs, the Boston Bruins and Golden Knights, before being traded to the Senators. In order to see what the Senators will be getting in Holden, it is important to look at his past two seasons.
This was Holden`s second year with the Golden Knights where he played 61 games. On the team he averaged top-four minutes and his most frequent defensive partner was Shea Theodore. When he was on the ice he made a positive impact, leading defenders in xGF% and was second in CF% (out of defenders with at least 300 TOI). However, he had one of the worst PDO (meaning he was unlucky) on the team and as a result, was under 50% in terms of GF%. In terms of competition, he was sheltered as he didn’t play much against “Elite” competition and mostly played against “Middle” and “Gritensity” competition (more on that here: PuckIQ). However, when he was tasked to go against “Elite” competition, he was on the positive end of the spectrum more often than not, having a DFF% of a bit over 50%.
Playing 19 games out of the 20 games that the team played in the playoffs, his TOI decreased significantly, going from around 16 minutes in the regular season to around 13 minutes. His most frequent defensive partner was Zach Whitecloud, as he played on the bottom pairing. However, he made good use of this limited role and had the highest CF% and fourth-highest xGF% among defenders (with at least 100 TOI).
During the 2019-20 season, Holden was mostly on the taxi squad for the Golden Knights and only appeared in 17 games during the regular season. He was deployed on the third defenseman pairing in the games that he played in. In the limited games he played in, he was sheltered playing almost 50% of his total ice time against “Gritensity” players per PuckIQ. However, he made the best out of the limited opportunities he had and posted pretty good underlying numbers: finishing seventh in CF% and sixth in xGF% (out of players with at least 100 minutes played). This was similar to the season before and it is possible to see a common theme here, that Holden doesn’t back down and actually has a positive impact.
Despite the fact that he didn’t appear in many games during the regular season, he played much more frequently in the playoffs. He played two games less than the amount he played during the regular season with 15. Although his TOI/GP was sixth among defenders, he was a solid addition to the team. He created chances frequently and had a positive impact on both ends of the ice, as shown in his xGF% of 57.68% (seventh on the team).
What can Holden bring to the team?
With the addition of Holden on the Senators, the team now has eight defenders capable of playing solidly in the NHL, so it will be interesting to see how things develop. As of now, the top four will likely be Thomas Chabot and Nikita Zaitsev on the first pairing with Victor Mete/Erik Brannstrom and Artem Zub on the second pairing. Holden has proven to be a good bottom four defender in the past and will likely be that for the team. Therefore, he may be a darkhorse to become a defensive partner with Chabot. Holden has experience playing with offensive defenders such as Tyson Barrie and Shea Theodore, his most common defensive partner in the 2019-20 season.
Against all competition this year, on 5v5, Holden was the defender with the lowest HDCA/60 (lower is better) on his team. Out of his total ice time this season, Holden played 16% against “Elite” competition this past year. Although it is a small sample, it shows that Holden could potentially have what it takes to play against “Elite” competition. However, there may be a reason he only played 16% against “Elite” competition and this may be because he doesn’t generate a positive impact when he is tasked to go against them more often. Nevertheless, the likely scenario is that he will be a bottom four defender that slides around on the defensive depth chart when injury hits or another player underperforms.
He is a player who can play both sides which will be useful if the “injury bug” hits the team. Although he isn’t a player who can put up many points, he will have a positive impact on the ice, night in and night out. In addition, he will be a player who can fetch the Senators a draft pick, similar to Gudbranson and Coburn at the trade deadline last year. This is not only because of his big body, standing at 6’4-214 Ibs, which teams like but also because of his relatively low cap hit at $1.7 million for another year.
Finally, another reason he could be an attractive player for other teams is due to his ability to up his game during the playoffs. During the past two playoffs, his CF% and xGF% were close to 60%. Although he was most likely sheltered, this shows that he can elevate his game when it counts and make use of the limited ice time he had.
Overall, he is a solid addition to the Senators roster, not only having a big body but decent underlying numbers to go along with that.