Likely the biggest bright spot among Edmonton Oilers’ prospects last season was the performance of 2020 first-round pick Dylan Holloway.
When the Oilers selected Holloway with the No. 14 overall pick last fall, there was a little bit of skepticism around the choice as he seemed to profile more as a middle-six, checking forward rather than an offensive dynamo that would usually go in the first half of the first round.
That perspective has largely been erased thanks to the post-draft season Holloway just put together for the Wisconsin Badgers. Holloway finished fifth in scoring among all NCAA players in 2020-21, a major breakout after his Freshman performance the year before.
There was talk that Holloway could push for a spot on the Oilers out of training camp this season, but, unfortunately, that’ll be put on hold as he underwent wrist surgery and will miss at least the first three months of 2021-22. This is obviously an unfortunate blow, but it’s better Holloway misses time and puts the issue behind him because he’s a very important player for the organization moving forward.
Position: Centre / Left Wing
Date of Birth: September 23, 2001
Drafted: 2020, No. 14 overall (EDM)
Weight: 203 lbs
A native of Calgary, Holloway broke into the AJHL as a full-time player in 2017-18 as a 16-year-old. He scored 11 goals and 27 points over 28 games for the Okotoks Oilers, which was good for the second-highest point-per-game average among players his age. Holloway exploded the following season, scoring 40 goals and 88 points over 53 games and his 1.66 points-per-game led the league. That showing was good enough to earn Holloway AJHL MVP honours, a very impressive feat for a 17-year-old.
Holloway then made the move to NCAA hockey for the 2019-20 season, joining the Wisconsin Badgers. At a glance, his eight goals and 17 points over 35 games looks fairly pedestrian, but it’s important to point out that Holloway was one of the youngest players in the league. The majority of high-scoring Freshmen such as Cole Caufield, Alex Newhook, and Alex Turcotte were January and February birthdays, while Holloway was born in September.
Anyways, as I mentioned earlier, Holloway’s low-ish production in his Freshman campaign raised some skepticism at the draft that he might wind up being more of a low-scoring checking forward, the type of prospect with a high floor but a low ceiling. That became moot in 2020-21 when Holloway broke out as a Sophomore, scoring 11 goals and 35 points over 23 games, good for fifth in NCAA scoring.
The thing about Holloway that makes him such an interesting prospect is that before his breakout NCAA season, he already boasted the tool-kit that had the makings of a solid NHL player. He has size, standing at 6’1″ and 203 pounds, and amazing skating ability. The key for him becoming a top-six contributor rather than a checker is the ability to produce offence, which he showed in his Sophomore season as a Badger.
This highlight in particular from February in a game against Michigan, a good team, shows the kind of ability Holloway can bring to the NHL level, as he quietly fools defenders into giving him room at the blueline and then uses his speed to bust in alone and snipe a puck over the opposing goaltender…
#Oilers 2020 first-rounder Dylan Holloway just keeps scoring. 🚨
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 14, 2021
Holloway plays as both a centre and a winger, so there are a couple of different paths for him to reach the NHL level with the Oilers. A few months ago, it seemed as though Holloway could soon be the answer to the question of who plays on Connor McDavid’s left, but the addition of Zach Hyman fills that role. The spot for Holloway might be as the team’s third-line centre who can drive offence while playing a sound defensive game.
It’s hard to say, but Holloway’s versatility is a plus, as it means he can help the team in a variety of different ways. Now, the question is when that will be.
Holloway has inked his entry-level contract, so he won’t be returning to Wisconsin. It isn’t uncommon for a player to jump right over the AHL and into the NHL after two seasons of playing at the NCAA level. This was the case for Brock Boeser a few years ago and was pretty much the case for Cole Caufield this year, as he played just two games for Montreal’s AHL team before joining them on their run to the Stanley Cup Final. I can’t imagine Caufield will play in Laval this upcoming season, and Boeser never played a single game in the AHL.
Had it not been for the worst injury (suffered during the World Juniors on this play), Holloway would be in the mix for a gig at Edmonton’s training camp this fall. There’s no guarantee Holloway would have cracked the Oilers’ roster, as the team is fairly deep up front and Ken Holland is notoriously conservative with prospects, but he would have had a chance to prove he was too good to send down.
Unfortunately, Holloway will have to wait for a while in order to prove that points, as he’ll miss at least three months following wrist surgery. The key for the Oilers and their top forward prospect will be taking things slow. He’s a key part of the team’s future and nobody wants this wrist issue to persist.
Holloway will join the Bakersfield Condors when he’s healthy and, if he’s good in the AHL, he’ll earn himself a cup of coffee with the Oilers. But, of course, there’s no rush here, as the Oilers have built quite a bit of depth up front, so Holloway spending the entirety of the 2021-22 season honing his game in the AHL wouldn’t be a problem either.
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.