What Can Holloway Become in the NHL?

Is Dylan Holloway a first line player? Will he be a second liner? Maybe bottom six forward?

He might be all three at various times in his career. It is easy to project a superstar like Connor McDavid, but he and a few others are the rare “can’t miss” prospects.

Many others have high expectations, and some reach them. But often many players’ projections end up being too high, and sometimes too low.

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Numerous scouting reports had Holloway’s ceiling as a top-line winger, and his floor being a third line player. If he becomes a regular third line winger then it is a solid pick. If he becomes a top-six forward then it would be a great pick.

What is a realistic expectation?

Let’s look at the history of forwards drafted 14th overall dating back to 1970 when there were at least 14 picks in the first round. Active players in bold.

Year Player GP G-A-PTS
1973 Rick Middleton 1016 448-540-998
1979 Brian Propp 1005 425-578-1003
1971 Terry O’Reilly 891 204-402-606
1970 Dan Maloney 737 192-259-451
1993 Adam Deadmarsh 567 184-189-373
1977 Ric Seiling 738 179-208-387
2006 Michael Grabner 640 175-101-276
2002 Chris Higgins 711 165-168-333
1994 Ethan Moreau 928 147-140-287
2010 Jaden Schwartz 520 146-218-364
1990 Brad May 1041 127-161-288
2001 Chuck Kobasew 601 110-100-210
1996 Marty Reasoner 798 97-169-266
1974 Dave Maloney 657 71-246-317
2015 Jake Debrusk 203 62-58-120
2012 Zemgus Girgensons 489 61-77-138
2013 Alexander Wenneberg 415 40-161-201
1986 Everett Sanipass 164 25-34-59
1981 Normand Leveille** 75 17-25-42
1988 Claude Boivin 132 12-19–31
2008 Zack Boychuk 127 12-18–30
2000 Vaclav Nederost 99 10-10–20
2018 Joel Farabee 52 8-13–21
1976 Alex McKendry 46 3-6–9
1978 Don Lucas 6 1-0-1
1997 Michel Riesen 12 0-1-1
1980 Jim Malone 0 0-0-0

**Leveille played 66 games as a rookie in 1981/1982 and scored 14-19-33. He was off to a great start in his second season producing 3-6-9 in his first eight games. During the first intermission of his ninth game he told the trainers he had pain in his shoulder and was dizzy. He then lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. He was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. He was in a coma for three weeks. He eventually recovered enough to walk again, but his playing career was over. He was 19. In 1995, the Boston Bruins invited him to the closing of Boston Gardens. He actually took a lap around the ice with the help of Ray Bourque. I’d like to find footage of that.**

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Rick Middleton is a trade the New York Rangers would love back. After two seasons they dealt him to Boston for an aging Ken Hodge. Hodge played 96 games over two seasons with the Rangers and another year and a half in the AHL. Middleton would play 12 seasons with the Bruins scoring 50 goals once, 40 goals four times and 30+ goals three times. He and Brian Propp are the easily to the two best forwards. Sergei Gonchar (1992) is the best D-man taken, while Devan Dubnyk is the best goalie.

Some D-men taken recently at 14 include: Jamie Oleksiak (2011), Dmitri Kulikov (2009), Kevin Shattenkirk (2007), Charlie McAvoy (2016), Julius Honka (2014), Cal Foote (2017) and Cam York (2019).

Looking at the list of forwards, it is rare to get an elite scorer, but O’Reilly, Deadmarsh, Schwartz and Debrusk have been solid top-six forwards, while another nine forwards have skated in 600+ games in bottom six roles. So that is 15 of the 27 forwards who either played in a top-six role or played 600+ games. And with Leveille’s injury it could have been 16 of 27. So the odds are pretty good that Holloway reaches his floor of being a third line player.


Tony Granato played 13 seasons in the NHL and he was an assistant coach or head coach for 13 more. He knows the NHL. He’s entering his fourth season as the head coach at Wisconsin, and he shared a pretty good scouring report on Holloway. He talked about his strengths, what he has to work on and why he plans on playing him at centre this season, even though he expects Holloway to play wing in the NHL. “We want him to learn the responsibilities of being a centre,” said Granato. “It will help him when he plays in the NHL. I played wing and centre in University and it really helped me when I went to the NHL.” I recommend listening to his entire breakdown of Holloway if you want to know more about the youngster.

The draft projections by numerous scouts said Holloway’s floor was becoming a third line player, and his ceiling is a first liner. What does Granato see?

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“Well I think he’s got the understanding and the skillset to do both (first or third line),” Granato said. He can play a skill game when you’re going up and down and it’s wide open, or he can be in that playoff grind it out, scratch-and-claw for every inch of ice type of game. That is what really makes him special.

“In talking with Kenny (Holland), he asked me the same question: ‘Tony, where do you see him?’. And I said, I played with a guy I respected a ton because he was a great teammate, hard to play against, worked his rear end off, was very consistent and that was Marco Sturm. He could skate, he could finish plays, he wasn’t quite as polished as the elite goal scorers, but a good goal scorer. I think that is who he can be, and I think he (Holloway) can go past that.

“What I mean by past that, is I think there is some more upside there that he hasn’t quite polished up yet to be a finisher where you give him a scoring chance and its going in the net. He’s getting close, his confidence is gaining in that area, so I think Marco Sturm is the worst case scenario. Sturm played 15 years in the league, gets you 20-25 goals, penalty killer, shot blocker, a great teammate.

“And I also see the higher end of that. I threw the name Adam Graves out there. He was a pretty incredible player. Maybe a little bigger body, but a gamer and I see Dylan as a gamer. I see him being a captain, I see him being a leader, I see a guy who understands the game of hockey, respects the game of hockey, and that’s who I kind of see him in the locker room as. I actually met Adam near the end of my career. He came to San Jose and I got to know him through the training staff, and everything I’ve ever heard about him as a teammate is about as good of a picture of what I can have as a hockey player, so comparing him with those two guys is what I think of him.”​

Sturm was the 21st pick in 1996. He made his NHL debut the following season and scored 10-20-30 for the San Jose Sharks. He got 2:27/game of PP time and 0:42 on the PK. In his second year he played on the second line, had same PP time, but played 2:18/game on the PK and produced 16-22-38. His third season he was on the third line, and played less on the PP and PK and produced 12-15-27. Very few careers are a constant improvement.

In his fifth season, when he was 23 years old, he scored 21 goals and 41 points. He played less on the PP than in previous years (1:34/game), but with age and maturity he became a consistent player.

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2001-02 San  Jose 77 21 20 41
2002-03 San  Jose 82 28 20 48
2003-04 San  Jose 64 21 20 41
2005-06 San  Jose 23 6 10 16
2005-06 Boston Bruins 51 23 20 43
2006-07 Boston Bruins 76 27 17 44
2007-08 Boston Bruins 80 27 29 56
2008-09 Boston Bruins 19 7 6 13
2009-10 Boston Bruins 76 22 15 37

He scored 28, 29, 27, 27, 22 and 21 goals in six of the next seven seasons. He tallied 21 goals in 64 games and had seven in 19 games in 2008 before a season-ending injury. He was part of the Joe Thornton trade to Boston. He was a solid producer for the Bruins, but obviously no Thornton.

If Holloway can have a productive career like Sturm, Oilers fans should be very happy. He played 938 games and scored 242 goals (started in low scoring era). His 242 goals rank 109th most since the start of the 1997/1998 season. Really solid player.

Adam Graves was the 22nd pick in 1986. He played two more seasons in junior before turning pro in 1988/1989. He started the season in Detroit and played 54 games, scored 7-5-12, before he was sent to the American League on February 24th, 1999. He lit up the AHL scoring 10-11-21 in 14 games, and then scored 11-7-18 in 14 playoff games.

He started the 1989/1990 season with the Wings, but was goalless in 13 games, before he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers along with Petr KIima, Joe Murphy and Jeff Sharples for Jimmy Carson, Kevin McClelland a 5th round pick (Brad Layzell). This trade helped the Oilers win the 1990 Stanley Cup. Murphy (6-8-14) and Graves (5-6-11) along with Martin Gelinas (2-3-5) formed the Kid Line and gave Edmonton an energetic third line. Klima scored one of the biggest goals in Oilers playoff history in the Stanley Cup Finals, and chipped in a total of five goals in 21 playoff games.

Graves had 9-12-21 in 63 regular season games that year and then scored 7-18-25 the following season. He was a restricted free agent the New York Rangers gave him an offer sheet of $2.44m over five years, which was $488K/season. The finances of the NHL in 1991 are much different than today. The Oilers didn’t match the offer, and were given Troy Mallette as compensation.

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His first season with the Rangers, when he was 23 years old, he scored 26 goals. In his first nine seasons with the Rangers he scored 270 goals. An average of 30 goals/season.

Year Team GP G A PTS
1991-92 New York 80 26 33 59
1992-93 New York 84 36 29 65
1993-94 New York 84 52 27 79
1994-95 New York 47 17 14 31
1995-96 New York 82 22 36 58
1996-97 New York 82 33 28 61
1997-98 New York 72 23 12 35
1998-99 New York 82 38 15 53
1999-00 New York 77 23 17 40

He was physical. He was a leader and he was a major contributor in their 1994 Stanley Cup Championship scoring 10 goals in the playoffs.

If Holloway comes close to Graves, then he, his family, the Oilers and their fans should be ecstatic.

I found Granato’s comparisons eye opening. Too often people make unrealistic comparisons to great players. The fact is most highly productive forwards are taken in the top-five picks. Since 2000 a player has scored 100 points in a season 43 times.

Sidney Crosby six times (1st pick).
Connor McDavid and Alex Ovechkin four times (1st overall picks).
Joe Thornton (1st pick) and Evgeni Malkin (2nd pick) three times.
Patrick Kane (1st), Dany Heatley (2nd), Leon Draisaitl (3rd), Jaromir Jagr (5th), Joe Sakic (15th) and Nikita Kucherov (58th pick) did it twice.
Vincent Lecavalier (1st), Eric Stall (2nd), Daniel Sedin (2nd), Henrik Sedin (3rd), Nicklas Backstrom (4th), Peter Forsberg (6th), Marian Hossa (12th), Markus Naslund (16th), Claude Giroux (22nd), Brad Marchand (71st), Daniel Alfredsson (133rd) and Marty St.Louis (not drafted) each did it once.

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Only 23 players did it over a 20-year period and 33 of the 43 cases occurred from players in the top-five picks.

Realistic expectations for Holloway are necessary. If Granato thinks he can be Sturm, that is a big win in my eyes. He was a very good NHL player, but Sturm like so many others didn’t really find his game until he was 23.

I wouldn’t expect Holloway to be much different in terms of a developmental timeline.

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