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Was Holloway the Right Pick?

The truth is none of us can answer that question accurately today. It creates a lot of discussion, but any claim the pick was right, wrong, good or bad is simply based on opinion. There are no concrete facts to say how good Dylan Holloway, or any of the players taken after him, will be in the National Hockey League.

Is that a boring take? Probably, but it is realistic and here’s why.

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Drafting a player is one step in the process. How an organization allows him to develop is just as, if not, more important. And where, and with who, players play matters. The one player I really liked at #14 was Seth Jarvis. I’ve seen him the most, so I felt most comfortable evaluating his game and I loved his overall skills. He went 13th to Carolina. Had he been available and the Oilers passed on him, I’d have questioned it.

I think Holloway could have an advantage over Dawson Mercer and Connor Zary (two players many wanted the Oilers to take) because Holloway has the chance to play with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Another player some fans expressed interest in was Rodion Amirov.

Here is how these players were ranked across 11 different scouting outlets.

HP: Hockey Prospect
DP/Robinson: Dobber Prospects
Elite P: Elite Prospects
Future Con: Future Considerations

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Prospect McKenzie HP McKeens ISS Future Con DP/Rob Elite P Button Pronman Wheeler Cosentino
Holloway 16 15 26 20 15 21 18 14 22 18 20
Zary 22 16 18 15 17 25 25 12 10 13 16
Mercer 13 12 13 12 13 13 14 17 11 19 13
Amirov 19 25 25 16 14 12 17 21 16 20 19

Here is how they averaged out:

Player Avg Rank
Mercer 13.63
Zary 17.18
Holloway 18.63
Amirov 18.74

If you want to say you would have preferred Mercer or Zary, you can make that argument based on the rankings. Hockey Prospect compiles theirs rankings based on numerous scouts in their group, while Button, Pronman, Wheeler and Cosentino do their own. McKenzie compiles his based on talks with NHL scouts. His rankings had Mercer, Holloway, Amirov and Zary one through four.

I didn’t include Central Scouting as they rank North American and European players separately. They had Mercer 10th, Holloway 12th, Zary 15th among North Americans and Amirov was 5th among Europeans.

I often find much of the yelling about a player, being a bad pick, is based on public rankings, but it is important to remember these rankings are not more valid than each team’s individual rankings. They might be different, and they give us solid information, but I caution people when they use Wheeler and Pronman, for instance, as a baseline, because they do not have the time to watch every player. It is impossible and it is why NHL teams have a group of scouts. One individual can’t accurately track players in the WHL, OHL, QMJHL, NCAA, USHL and Europe on their own. I applaud the effort, but it simply isn’t possible.

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Was Holloway the best player available? I don’t know. I won’t pretend to know, but based on the rankings he wasn’t a reach. Maybe the other three become more productive NHL players, maybe they don’t. Amirov went 15th to Toronto, Mercer went 18th to New Jersey and Zary went 24th to Calgary. Maybe the Flames got a steal, or maybe the Oilers did. We won’t know the answer for at least four of five years, and likely longer, as the draft is rarely a sprint.

HOLLOWAY’S STRENGTHS

Dylan Holloway shoots in the Badgers’ exhibition game against British Columbia on Aug. 30, 2019.

He lit up the Alberta Junior Hockey League at 17 scoring 40-48-88 in 53 games for Okotoks. He was named league MVP. In the past 30 years of the AJHL only two players won the MVP at 17; Holloway and Mike Comrie (1998). Cale Makar won it when he was 18.

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Holloway played in the NCAA this past season and produced 8-9-17 in 35 games.  It took him time to adjust. His head coach, former NHLer Tony Granato, will join me at 2:20 p.m. MT today on TSN 1260 to discuss Holloway’s season and his development. Holloway scored 5-4-9 in the final 10 games of the season, before Covid cancelled the remaining games.

Ryan Wagman joined me last night on our TSN 1260 Draft show and I asked him about Holloway? You can listen to entire interview here.

Gregor: How do you project him as an NHL player?

Wagman: He has a lot of talent. He has size. He is a really good skater and has good hands. He plays a big, physical game. The question is can he slow the game down to let his skills shine through.

Jumping from the AJHL to the NCAA he some times would let the game get too fast on him, and he wasn’t looking for his teammates. He had one goal in mind at times. That could simply be due to adjusting to a new league and competition.

If he can slow his game down, he has the skillset to be a first line winger. If he can’t slow it down he has a skill to be a third line winger. The floor is high and the ceiling is high, but there is a big gap between the two. I do need to see him playing with a steadier heartbeat in order to succeed. I think he can probably do that, but I haven’t seen him do that yet in the NCAA.

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Gregor: Can you compare Holloway to Mercer?

Wagman: They are very different style of players. Mercer is not the most toolsy guy. Holloway has a lot of tools, and if he brings them together he could be a star. Mercer doesn’t have the same tools, but he has a high hockey IQ, slows the game down and maximizes everything he has. He will likely get the best out of his skillset.

While Holloway, if he doesn’t get the best out of his skillset you will find him to be disappointing, because he looks like he could a lot more. But part of a player’s development is to slow their heartrate, to set the pace of the game, instead of going 100% all the time. If he can do that there won’t be any disappointment with him.

Other than them being wingers I don’t see many similarities. They are very different style of players.

That is just one scouting report, but it was interesting to hear Wagman’s take on Holloway’s upside.

Based on the information we have today, I don’t see the Holloway pick as a reach, or even a safe pick. Maybe Zary or Mercer could have been better, but I don’t see it being an obvious mistake. Obvious mistakes are when you draft Jesse Niinimaki 15th overall and not one scouting services had him in the top-80 picks. That was a bad pick the moment it was made.

Holloway will play in the NHL, but whether it is on the first line or the third line remains to be seen. Much of it will be up to the player, and how the Oilers develop him. I’m a strong believer in not rushing players, so I’d keep him in Wisconsin for at least two more seasons.

What did you think of the pick and the first round?

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