Rexall Place – The third full NHL season for Nick Holden is the best of the bunch.
The Colorado Avalanche defenceman from St. Albert has played in all 62 games and is plus-two with five more points than last year’s total in 78 games.
“With the kind of the consistency I’ve shown and the situations you get put into I feel like this is probably my best season,” Holden said after his 200th NHL game in Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
Last season Holden was minus-11, with five goals and 14 points, after a 10-goal and 25-point campaign in 54 games in his Colorado debut, highlighted by a breakthrough 2014 playoff series against the Minnesota Wild with three goals and one assist in seven games as the team’s top scoring defenceman.
“My first NHL season I had more points but I feel this has been my best year so far,” said Holden, who broke into the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010 and was pointless in seven games over two seasons.
“Hopefully it can continue the rest of the way here and obviously into the playoffs.”
Holden, 28, also didn’t miss a game after sustaining two black eyes from a fractured nose that required six stitches and glue to repair after being struck in the face by Drew Stafford’s high stick in the 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 6. Stafford was assessed a double minor and suspended one game for the incident.
Ironically, both players were among the original 24 inductees into the City of St. Albert’s Skating Wall of Fame in 2011 for achieving national or professional accomplishments.
A strong training camp by Holden set the tone for this season.
“Obviously we had a lot of D at camp and right from the beginning there was good competition. Luckily I had a good camp and they kind of paired me with Tyson Barrie (10 goals and 30 assists in 58 games) together all season, which is nice. I’ve been able to kind of get a few points and we’re playing against top lines and penalty kill and key situations so far,” said Holden, who ended a 19-game goal drought in the 4-3 OT loss to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 4.
Holden’s career stats after his 201st game in Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver are 19 goals, 39 assists and 74 penalty minutes.
The road to the NHL for Holden started in the St. Albert minor hockey system and after his last midget AAA season with the Raiders played for the Sherwood Park Crusaders and Camrose Kodiaks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League before hooking up with the Chilliwack Bruins in the Western Hockey League. As captain of the Bruins, he led all WHL defencemen in goals with 22 and was third in points with 60 in 2007/08.
Columbus signed the undrafted free agent March 28, 2008 and his first NHL game was Oct. 20, 2010, a 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
After five seasons and 295 games in the American Hockey League with the Columbus affiliates in Syracuse and Springfield, Holden inked a two-year deal with Colorado on July 5, 2013 and the next year on Canada Day agreed to a three-year multi-million dollar extension.
Holden’s first NHL goal in his 11th game and fourth with Colorado was the winner against Braden Holtby in the 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Nov. 10, 2013.
This season the St. Albert Catholic High School alumnus has recorded four goals, 15 assists and 24 penalty minutes.
The six-foot-four, 210-pound blueliner also ranks second on the team in hits and 13th in the NHL with 174.
He also witnessed Jarome Iginla’s historic 600th goal on Jan. 4. The St. Albert product is the 19th player in NHL history to reach the 600-goal plateau and the first since Teemu Selanne in 2010.
“Jarome is a St. Albert guy and you grew up watching him and seeing him and just to be a teammate and then see that special goal that he scored it was obviously cool for me to experience. I was just happy for him,” Holden said.
After missing the playoffs last year, Colorado (31-27-4) is the second wild-card team in the Western Conference and in its last 10 games was 4-5-1 before hosting the San Jose Sharks tonight.
“We have just over 20 games left and we’re kind of making our playoff push here so it’s nice that we’ve got the spot that we’re at. We’ve just got to keep winning,” Holden said.