by Jason Lockhart || AHL On The Beat Archive
When Peter Holland was 13, his father, Jan, was still hoping his son would switch positions.
Peter was undeniably one of the best players of his age group, but Mr. Holland continued to encourage his son to drop back from forward to defense.
"Ever since I was young my dad wanted me to play defense,” said the younger Holland. "He told me that as a defenseman I would get more ice time. Also, he said I had good composure with the puck and skated well, so thought I’d be good as a defenseman."
The domestic squabble of Peter’s position began at the early age of two, when he first put on skates.
"My earliest hockey memory was skating on our backyard pond in Caledon, just outside of Toronto, said Holland. "I remember my dad teaching me crossovers when I was four."
Like most youngsters in the Toronto area, Holland, at an early age, grew fond of the Toronto Maple leafs. More specifically, he became a fan of captain and center Mats Sundin.
"It was because of Sundin that I wanted to become a center,” said Holland. "I also liked scoring and making plays offensively so I naturally wanted to become a forward."
The move paid off as Holland, in short time, had to move up age groups because he was too good for his own age group. His skills earned him a first-round selection by Guelph into the Ontario Hockey League.
"When you grow up in Ontario, the OHL is a huge step," said Holland. "You idolize those guys and look up to them."
But the OHL wasn’t a given for Holland, not because of his talent, but because of his parents. U.S. college hockey was still an option up until his OHL draft year.
"Education has always been important to me and my family," said Holland. "I was a good student growing up and I visited Michigan State."
But ultimately, Holland chose the Canadian junior route and had to balance the remainder of his high school studies with a rigorous hockey schedule.
"It was tough taking classes when you’re playing 70 games in a season," admitted Holland. "But I enjoyed taking classes since it allowed me to take my mind off hockey when I was at the rink. My goal is to eventually finish my studies. My parents had rules for me growing up regarding schoolwork. They would tell me I couldn’t go to practice or games if my marks weren’t good enough. Luckily I was a good student so I didn’t have to worry about that too much."
Holland successfully balanced his class work and hockey. While he picked up just 23 points in his first season with limited ice time, he jumped to 67 in his second season, ranking him among the top forwards for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
With the draft in nearby Montreal, and with friends and family in attendance, Holland was selected by Anaheim in the first round, 15th overall.
"It was one of the best days of my life, and one of the highlights of my career, getting drafted by Anaheim," recalled Holland. "I don’t think I slept much the night before. As stressful as it was, you try to soak it all in. We had a fun night and it’s something I’ll never forget."
It was at Holland’s first Ducks training camp in 2009 that he was awed and humbled by both a star forward and defenseman.
“When you go to the Anaheim Ducks, you’ve got guys that are going to the Hall of Fame,” said Holland. “You have guys that are scoring 50 goals a year. It was a little intimidating to say the least, but it was exciting. I just tried to take in as much as I could. I remember when we were skating out early before practice and Ryan Getzlaf came up and introduced himself and said, ‘You know, you look good out here.’ Something as small as that brightens your day.
"Also, I remember a drill when Scott Niedermayer was giving me an outlet, and I didn’t know how much time and space he had given me. When he gave me the puck, I just threw it away because I didn’t know what was going on.”
As much as Holland wanted to jump right to the pros following his draft year, he admitted he wasn’t ready, but didn’t let it get him down.
“You take all of things you learn from camp, such as working hard and creating the right habits and bring that back with you,” said Holland. “You want to have a positive attitude and help out the young guys.”
Some players crack under the pressure of having the first-round label placed on them, but Holland did the opposite: he thrived. Holland added to his point totals in each of his two seasons with Guelph following the draft.
"It puts a little bit more pressure on you," said Holland about being drafted in the first round. "You just have to go out there and play your game, and not worry about the other stuff around you. You take getting drafted as being the beginning and keep improving."
As Holland became one of the top scorers on Guelph, he moved to the point on the power play and had some success there. It allowed his dad to remind his son that he would be good as a defenseman, but that would never come to fruition.
Even though Holland resisted moving from forward to defense, his father and mother, Jude continued their unwavering support for their son, traveling west for an hour to Guelph to see him play on a regular basis.
"My mom and dad came to almost every home game we had," said Holland. "I never went more than a week without seeing them. The same year I left for juniors, my sister left for university, so my parents had an empty house pretty quickly."
After finishing his fourth year at Guelph at the end of the 2010-11 season, Holland was immediately sent to Syracuse to begin his pro career. His professional tune-up would only be for three games, but what an impression the young man made on the entire organization and Crunch fans.
In his first game with the Crunch on Apr. 7 at the War Memorial, Holland recorded two assists and scored the game-winning goal on the power play. He followed that up with another two goals and an assist in the final two games, giving him six points in three games.
"It was exciting to make my professional debut, and it could not have gone much better," said Holland. "The games were exciting, especially the ones in Syracuse."
That good feeling at the end of the season — not just for Holland but for the whole team, which went 15-5 in the final 20 games of the 2010-11 season — has carried over to the start of the 2011-12 season.
"I spent a small time with the team last year, but you could see the guys were disappointed about how they were missing the playoffs and at the same time happy with how they were playing," said Holland. "I think guys are confident this year, considering how things ended last season."
And as the first full professional season for Holland begins, he can’t help but look back at all of the positive things that have happened in his hockey career and all of the right choices he made, especially his position on the ice as center.
It’s something that from time to time he’ll reiterate to his dad.
"We had our differences growing up and I still like to give him a hard time about it every now and then," said Holland. "But I think it worked out pretty well for me."