I’ll be the first to admit, I was a bit confused and disappointed when the Edmonton Oilers drafted Dylan Holloway at 14th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. At the time of the draft, I had not heard much about him at all and the general consensus among draft rankings suggests that it was a bit of a reach (but not a huge one) to draft him that high in the first round.
Up to the draft, his stat line was relatively limited and unimpressive. He had spent most of his developmental years in the AJHL with the Okotoks Oilers, putting up 88 points in 53 games in his last season there. Holloway then moved onto the NCAA to play with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. In his first season there, which was also his draft year, he had 17 points in 35 games (though in his defense, the team was not very good at all, finishing last in the Big Ten). This was good for eighth in team scoring. Respectable for a rookie season in a new league where you’re one of the younger players, but not indicative of his draft position in my opinion.
What Changed for Dylan Holloway?
Since the draft, Holloway has done nothing but impress. Despite being sidelined intermittently with hand and wrist problems, he recorded 35 points in 23 games in his second season, now third in team scoring. During this season he also represented Canada at the World Junior Classic and earned a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player. And now, in his rookie professional season with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, he has a respectable 21 points in 32 games.
Over these past two seasons, Holloway’s stock has drastically risen as we’ve gotten a chance to see more of his talents on display. He has been a bit of a case where the eye test and stat line do not necessarily match up quite yet.
One of the key standout plays that have gotten my attention lately is this amazing assist from earlier in April.
Holloway’s offensive instincts and hand-eye coordination, a couple of his biggest assets as a player, were quite clearly on display in that highlight. He is a creative player with a ton of poise who can read the on-ice situation with ease. Like future teammate Connor McDavid, he is a smooth skater and can handle the puck well while skating at higher speeds.
One of the more intriguing parts of Holloway’s game, for me, is his versatility. During his time with the University of Wisconsin, he filled a variety of roles in the lineup. He started as a third-line forward, slowly moved up the depth chart, and got some powerplay time. And even played penalty kill.
This is a trend that followed him to the 2021 World Juniors as well. Holloway began lower in the lineup and quickly worked his way up as he impressed with his play. He got ice time in all situations, used his size and physicality, and despite only getting two points in six games, found himself on Team Canada’s top line by the end of the tournament.
When Will Dylan Holloway Make His NHL Debut?
If the Oilers can clinch a playoff spot and secure a home-ice advantage in round one of the upcoming playoffs, we can probably expect Holloway to get a chance in the NHL before the end of the season. Edmonton will want to rest some of their top players to prepare for the playoffs. This will open a roster spot for a few games to test out some prospects and potential Black Aces for the postseason in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the AHL affiliate’s playoff run. Unfortunately, Holloway is currently out with a leg injury so his NHL debut may be on hold indefinitely.
When he does make his debut, I expect his skillset to quickly find a place in the Oilers’ middle six. Ideally, I like what Holloway could bring to a second line with Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto. His play driving and rush talents can be a great compliment to the line’s composition.
The more likely and probably beneficial outcome, especially early on, is a spot on the third line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Holloway already shows promise as a two-way forward, something the Oilers could use more of right now. An ideal pairing is to get him on the wing of one of the best two-way forwards the Oilers currently have. This also helps spread the depth out even more by giving the third line more of a scoring threat that will get to play against favourable matchups.
Holloway does have a bit more work to do before making a long-term impact in the NHL. Although he has had the size trait working for him in juniors and college, he won’t have as much of an advantage with that in the NHL and may have to adjust how he imposes himself in the game. Not to mention the speed and pace of the NHL game taking away a lot of the time and space he uses to drive the rush and create plays.
Now that I have gotten a chance to see Holloway in action, I have definitely changed my tune on this Oilers prospect and am firmly on his hype train.
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