The Oilers actively sought to deal with their farm system’s biggest weakness at this year’s draft by using all six of their selections on forwards.
The team’s all-forward class of 2020 was headlined by No. 14 overall pick Dylan Holloway, an alumnus of the Alberta Junior Hockey League who’s working his way towards professional hockey by taking the American college route.
I have the newly-drafted Holloway as Edmonton’s top forward prospect, though, as I mentioned the other day, there’s an argument to be made for Raphael Lavoie.
The reason I have Holloway at the top of the list among forwards is that he’s a very mature player who seems to have a high floor as a prospect and there are two clear paths for him to reach the NHL. He could become a defensively-responsible third-line centre or he could end up a nice complementary, power-forward winger in the top-six.
If all goes well, Holloway can become an NHL player with the ability and versatility to fill both of those roles, which would be a great addition for the Oilers. Think something along the lines of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a bigger body and a more physical game without the same high-end skill.
Position: Centre and Left Wing
Date of Birth: Sept. 23, 2001
Drafted: 2020, No. 14 overall (EDM)
Height: 6’1″ / 185 cm
Weight: 203 lbs / 92 kg
In 2018-19, Holloway had a huge season for the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL, recording 40 goals and 88 points over the course of 53 games. That showing was good enough to earn Holloway the honour of league MVP, which is pretty impressive for a 17-year-old to win.
Holloway then joined the Wisconsin Badgers for the 2019-20 season despite not turning 18 years old until just a couple of weeks before the season started. At a glance, Holloway’s freshman season was fairly pedestrian (eight goals and 17 points over 35 games) but it’s important to note that he was one of the youngest players in the NCAA last year.
For the sake of comparison, there are a handful of other players in recent memory who put up similar numbers to Holloway in their freshman NCAA seasons that went on to become productive, top-six NHLers. Chris Kreider scored 23 points in 38 games, Kyle Palmieri scored 17 points in 33 games, and Reilly Smith scored 20 points in 44 games.
On the other side of that, though, there’s also Warren Foegele, who scored 16 points in 34 games as a college freshman. Unlike those aforementioned three, Foegele is more of a defensively-oriented, middle-six checking forward, which is what Holloway might become in the NHL if his offence doesn’t come around.
With a first-round pick, you’d obviously like for Holloway to become a 20-goal, 50-point power-forward like Kreider is for the New York Rangers, but, as I mentioned earlier, Holloway has a couple of paths he could take to the NHL, one of which is becoming a player like Foegele. Foegele is an excellent skater who kills penalties and put up 30 points in 68 games for the Hurricanes last season. This comparison isn’t meant to be a criticism. He’s no slouch.
The early returns in Holloway’s freshman season have been encouraging. Through two games, Edmonton’s first-round pick has scored a couple of goals, both of which showed some high-end skill. First, there was a snipe from the point on the power-play, and then there was a power-forward rush. It’s a microscopic sample size, but Holloway appears poised for a big Sophomore season.
Those are the only two games we’ve seen from Holloway since he was drafted as he’s opted to join Team Canada for this year’s World Juniors in Edmonton. Doing so is a massive time commitment as it’ll require a two-week quarantine period on both ends of travel, but Holloway figures to be a key two-way forward on Team Canada and playing against the world’s best U-20 players is an invaluable experience.
It’s obviously difficult to say too much about Holloway given the fact he was only just drafted a couple of months ago and he’s only played two games since. There’s plenty to like about this prospect, such as his size, amazing skating ability, and the fact that he boasts such a strong 200-foot game despite his age, but it’s difficult to say whether or not offence will be a big part of his game at the big-league level.
For now, we’ll look forward to watching Holloway represent Canada at the World Juniors, and then we’ll see what he can do with Wisconsin once his Sophomore season really gets rolling. That’ll give us a better idea if he’s more likely to become someone like Kreider or someone like Foegele or even something different.
For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are skaters who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and goaltenders who have played fewer than 25 NHL games. I’m basing the rankings on a combination of upside and the likelihood of reaching that potential.