The Edmonton Oilers used their first round pick Tuesday night to take Okotoks-born Dylan Holloway.
With that pick, the Oilers took a guy that will likely be an impact player on the roster in years to come. Last year at 18 years old, he played as a freshman for the University of Wisconsin where he scored eight goals and 17 points in 35 games.
This all the while playing in the Badgers lineup behind some top prospects drafted in the first round last year in his roommate Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield, who was drafted 5th and 15th overall last year respectively. Holloway was the youngest player on the roster and second youngest in the NCAA, but still made his impact felt on the club. Holloway’s coach at Wisconsin is Tony Granato, who played 13 years in the NHL scoring 492 points in 773 games.
Holloway, a center, joined the Badgers after he put up 40 goals and 88 points in 53 AJHL games as a 17-year-old. He was named the league’s MVP after leading the league in scoring. That’s uncommon for young players like Holloway playing against lots of 19 and 20-year-olds, so the natural offensive ability is there.
The transition into the NCAA isn’t always the easiest. After all, a freshman like Holloway, despite his 6’1, 203 lb. frame, is up against 23, 24 and 25-year-old men in the NCAA. There was lots to learn for Holloway as he adjusted to a much different pace than he was used to.
During a media availability Tuesday night, Oilers GM Ken Holland said Holloway was a player he saw being able to play up and down the Oilers lineup and both on the wing, and up the middle.
Granato told The Athletic that Holloway could be deployed both as a winger and a center, but projected him to play primarily as a center.
“Last year, I played him in a secondary role behind Turk (Turcotte) and Cole,” Granato said. “This year, he’ll have a greater chance to have a big year. Last year, the final 14 to 15 games, he was a point-a-game guy and was probably was our most consistent player during that time.
“I think he’s going to step up and have an amazing year. To me, he’s a point-a-game guy, no question. He could challenge Cole for being the leading scorer on our team and you know what goal-scoring ability Cole has.”
Caufield was considered a player who slid a long way in the draft last year due to his size, but his greatest asset was considered to be his scoring ability. For Granato to feel that Holloway should contend for leading scorer on the roster is a huge kudos to what he should be able to do in the future.
Here’s what a scout texted me Tuesday night about Holloway:
“Two-way forward with the instincts to make an impact in all three zones. Has a great blend of skating, size, and scoring ability.”
The scout projected Holloway to be an NHL’er in the long run, but that he would need another year or two of college hockey and a year in the AHL.
The more I read about Holloway the more optimistic I am about this pick. I was pretty high on the Oilers taking Seth Jarvis, but Carolina nabbed him one pick ahead of Edmonton.
In The Athletic’s draft guru Corey Pronman final two mock drafts, he had the Oilers selecting Holloway both times.
Here’s what Pronman had to say about the Oilers drafting Holloway:
In Holloway, the Oilers get a top-end athlete. He’s a center with great speed and strength who can bulldoze his way past opponents. I think he’s very skilled, but the amount of offense he brings is the debate point. I personally see a second-line forward, unsure if a center or a wing, who can help a team and bring different elements to some of the more highly skilled guys in Edmonton’s top-six.
Mitch Brown, who writes for EliteProspects Rinkside blog, shared an interesting graph on Twitter breaking down Holloway’s play.
Dylan Holloway (14th, EDM): Excellent foundational habits on both sides of the puck with an edge. An always free stick complements improving playmaking to spot the trailer.
Oh and he was better than what point totals suggests.. pic.twitter.com/TBYEobUAlk
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) October 7, 2020
Like Brown mentions in the tweet, the graph shows that Holloway is better than his boxcars suggest. Holloway isn’t a sexy draft pick by any means, but he’s a big, natural point producer who skates incredibly well for his size. Edmonton might have a real solid player here.
The Oilers didn’t reach on Holloway, either. Consensus rankings had him anywhere from as high as 14 to as low as 26. He’s a near-perfect blend of what Edmonton needs more of in their top-six. His size can be a great asset to another big body in Leon Draisaitl as well as some of the smaller top-six players the Oilers have in Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and KAILER YAMAMOTO. His skating ability will allow him to keep up with all the above, and his defensive acumen as someone who can break up plays and pickpocket puck-carriers is much needed for the Oilers.
Holloway said after the draft that growing up, he used to watch the likes of Nugent-Hopkins.
“Growing up, I was watching guys like Nugent-Hopkins and just recently have been watching Leon Draisaitl and McDavid tear up the league,” Holloway told the Wisconsin State Journal. “To think that maybe I could be teammates with them one day is pretty cool and definitely something I’ll cherish forever.”
Holloway will be a player fans should be keeping their eyes on as he enters his sophomore season in the NCAA. The Badgers’ season will kick off as early as Nov. 13th playing 24-game conference schedules, plus four games against Arizona State University. Their season will wrap March 18-20, 2021 with the Big Ten Men’s tournament. His school will play against Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State in that tournament.
He is the third player that the Edmonton Oilers have drafted from the University of Wisconsin. They took Paul Houck 71st overall in 1981 and Brad Winchester 35th overall in 2000.
On Twitter: @zjlang
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