Hollowell enjoying impact first season with Wolf Pack

Photo: John Mrakovcich

by Alex Thomas | AHL On The Beat

On the morning of July 2, 2023, Mac Hollowell officially made the move.

After parts of five seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, Hollowell agreed to a one-year contract with the New York Rangers as an unrestricted free agent.

The skilled defenseman from Niagara Falls, Ont., would go from being a key cog for the Toronto Marlies to being Hartford’s puck-moving quarterback. The adjustment seemed easy for Hollowell, who quickly proved to be an impact addition.

Hollowell opened the season with a 10-game point streak, rattling off a goal and nine assists. After an injury kept him out of the lineup for roughly two weeks, Hollowell returned to post a career-high four assists in the Wolf Pack’s 6-4 victory over the Providence Bruins on Nov. 22. Those four assists were just one shy of the franchise record for assists in a single game.

“I think a big part of what has allowed me to have a successful season is the coach’s trusting me early on to play pretty big minutes and in key situations,” Hollowell said. “When they show faith in me to be a top guy, it really drives me to want to be better.”

There’s “better,” and then there is “best.” This season, the Wolf Pack have received the very best of Hollowell. He turned his hot start into, statistically, the best season of his career. Hollowell has already set new career-best marks in assists with 38 and points with 40.

As part of that, Hollowell collected the 100th point of his AHL career. Fittingly, it came at Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto, against his former team the Marlies, on March 23.

“It meant a lot to me,” Hollowell said. “It was my first time back there since I left. It’s where I started my pro career and really developed my game, so to me, that building and city will always be very special.”

He was also named to the AHL All-Star Classic in San Jose in February, the first time in his career he was selected to participate in the event.

If those accolades weren’t enough, Hollowell leads the league in assists by a defenseman. He’s also eight assists away from tying the franchise record for a rearguard (46), held by Thomas Pöck (2005-06) and Andrew Hutchinson (2007-08).

“It’s definitely cool to be at the top of any list or set any franchise record,” Hollowell said. “I’m just going to continue to do what I have been and continue to try to help us win each night.”

Helping the Wolf Pack win each night is the biggest goal right now. With just eight games remaining in the season, the club has a magic number of 10 to clinch a spot in the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs. It’s all hands on deck for the Wolf Pack now as they try to earn their second straight berth in the dance.

Hollowell will be a big part of things if the Wolf Pack are to return to the playoffs and enjoy some success in the postseason for the second straight spring.

“I just want to give it my best effort each night so that we can win hockey games,” Hollowell said. “Getting this close to the playoffs, the game changes and you really have to fight for each inch out there. We know we have a really good, deep roster. We are capable of big things as long as we have the right attitude and mindset.”

The team’s mind is set on a return to the playoffs. It’s also set on giving the fan base in Hartford more playoff action this spring at the XL Center, a building that has seen the crowds continue to grow after a renaissance last season.

“It would mean everything to us,” he said of playing playoff games in downtown Hartford. “Our crowd has been buzzing, and we feed off that.”

A playoff berth, a potential franchise milestone, and a possible league lead in a statistical category.

It’s been an impact first season for Mac Hollowell with the Wolf Pack, and it isn’t close to over yet.