A look into what sort of impact Dylan Holloway could make in 2023-24
Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By NHL_Sid19 days ago
Drafted 14th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, Dylan Holloway is one of Edmonton’s most promising young players.
Holloway played 51 games in the NHL on Edmonton’s roster this past season. Due to their cap situation, Edmonton will be forced to run a 21-man roster (12 forwards, 7 defencemen, 2 goalies), and since Holloway is currently on his ELC, he’s a near-lock to make the Oilers’ opening night roster in 2023-24.
With the departures of Kailer Yamamoto and Klim Kostin, alongside increased reliance on younger players with lower cap-hits to take a step forward, this upcoming season is a big opportunity for the young 21-year-old to make an impact with Edmonton.
Training camp officially begins in less than three weeks, and Holloway’s potential performance and impact is one of the team’s biggest question marks. Here’s a closer look into how well Holloway could perform in 2023-24.
*All AHL/NCAA stats via Pick224, all NHL microstats tracked by myself, and all NHL production / on-ice stats via Natural Stat Trick unless stated otherwise
A general summary of Holloway’s career thus far
In his draft year, Holloway played with the University of Wisconsin, generating 17 points in 35 games.
After being drafted by Edmonton, he continued playing with Wisconsin in 2020-21. With a significantly improved production total of 35 points in 23 games, Holloway ranked fifth in the NCAA in primary points per game. Additionally, Wisconsin out-scored opponents 24 to 13 with Holloway on the ice at even strength, equating to an excellent 65 percent goal differential.
However, Holloway suffered a wrist injury in the Big Ten playoffs and underwent surgery to repair a scaphoid bone fracture in March of 2021. He still played another playoff game on March 26 after his surgery, but it was in a loss that ended Wisconsin’s season. Unfortunately, his wrist didn’t heal enough in the following months, and he underwent a second wrist surgery in September of 2021.
Holloway finally played in January of 2022 with the Bakersfield Condors. He wasn’t spectacular in the AHL that season, as he produced 22 points in 33 games, and the Condors were out-scored at even-strength with Holloway on-ice, but his wrist injury certainly had an impact on his performance. Not to mention, Holloway’s underlying expected goal differential numbers were first among Bakersfield’s forwards, meaning he sustained some poor luck that was bound to regress.
Jun 6, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Dylan Holloway (36) skates against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period in game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
That year, Edmonton made the Western Conference Finals, playing the Colorado Avalanche. With Evander Kane suspended for boarding Nazem Kadri in Game 3, the Oilers inserted Holloway into their lineup, as he made his NHL playoff debut in Game 4. He wound up playing just three minutes in that game, and Edmonton was swept by Colorado, who would go on to win the Stanley Cup.
In 2022-23, Holloway impressed the Oilers in pre-season, with 6 points in 5 games and a 66 percent 5v5 goal differential. On opening night against the Vancouver Canucks, he began the game on the second line with Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman; however, he made a turnover to Elias Pettersson on his very first regular-season shift in the NHL, and Vancouver took an early 1-0 lead. While Edmonton still emerged victorious that night, Holloway played just eight minutes, and only 58 seconds on Draisaitl’s line.
Ever since, Jay Woodcroft hardly gave Holloway much opportunity. In his 51 games with Edmonton, Holloway produced 9 points and averaged 9:35 TOI per game, primarily playing on the fourth line. Due to Edmonton’s tight cap situation, the Oilers were forced to send Holloway down to Bakersfield to activate Yamamoto from LTIR. Unfortunately, Holloway was injured in his first AHL game, missing around a month of play. Eventually, Holloway played 12 AHL regular-season games and 2 AHL playoff games to end his 2022-23 season.
Throughout his career thus far, several of Holloway’s strengths have stood out, most notably his transitional abilities. In his draft year, Holloway’s transition efficiency score ranked higher than multiple other prominent NCAA players, including Cole Caufield and Trevor Zegras. The following year, his possession transition rate and transition turnover rate ranked well above the league average (transition stats via Mitchell Brown). Holloway’s play-making has also been quite strong, as he ranked first on Wisconsin in primary even-strength assists.
In the NHL, Holloway averaged 20.1 zone entries per hour, a rate that ranks fourth on the team. Holloway also averaged 1.4 high-danger passes (leading to shots) per hour, ranking third on the team, only behind McDavid and Draisaitl. While he didn’t shine in his rookie season, he certainly showed flashes of his potential.
Holloway’s potential impact next season
In 2022-23, Holloway was not exactly placed in a position to succeed for an NHL rookie.
As mentioned earlier, Holloway averaged just around nine minutes per game, playing around eight minutes or less in about a third of his games. Woodcroft would also often deploy Holloway as a center, a position he’s seldom played at the professional level. It also didn’t help that his most common forward linemates were fourth-liners. Personally, I would have preferred if Holloway played top-line minutes in Bakersfield rather than fourth-line minutes in the NHL.
This season, I believe Holloway should be a staple in the top-nine as a winger.
While there is a spot open at 4C, and Holloway can play center, it’s not an ideal role for multiple reasons. As mentioned earlier, Holloway doesn’t possess plentiful experience at center at the professional level, and I believe it’s time to see what Holloway can do with better linemates in an increased role. I would start him on the third line with McLeod and Foegele. The question is, how well could he perform?
Firstly, let’s discuss Holloway’s potential point production.
It’s highly unlikely Holloway plays any minutes on Edmonton’s top power-play unit. The PP1 unit consists of McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH, and Hyman as the forwards, and even if there are injuries, Evander Kane or Connor Brown are likely to obtain an opportunity before Holloway does. The most common forward on Edmonton’s PP2 unit was Ryan McLeod, who averaged just 56 seconds per game on the PP. Consequently, don’t expect Holloway to produce a significant amount of points on the power-play (barring multiple major injuries).
At 5v5, the average third-liner plays roughly 11:53 per game, while the average second-liner plays roughly 13:02 per game. Last season, the average third-liner produced about 1.49 5v5 points per hour, and the average second-liner produced roughly 1.86 points per hour.
If Holloway plays average third-line TOI over a full season, scoring at an average third-liner rate, he would produce about ~24 5v5 points.
I’d say roughly ~25 points is a solid baseline expectation for Holloway, but I think he definitely possesses the potential to produce more. If, hypothetically, Holloway averages around 12:45 TOI, and produces around 1.7 points per hour (both the TOI and production rates are roughly low-end second line / high-end third line level), he would produce roughly ~30 5v5 points. Add perhaps ~5 points from other situations (PP, 4v4, EN), and that’s approximately ~35 points, which I believe is a fairly achievable mark.
A breakout season from Holloway is not out of the question, as he could impress in a bottom-six role and receive a promotion to the top-six. Additionally, injuries are unfortunately inevitable; Kane has never played a full 82-game season in his 15-year NHL career, and Brown is coming off a significant knee injury, so Holloway could be promoted in the case of an injury (although Holloway also has an injury history himself). I wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of Holloway being promoted to the top-six, and developing into an impact player producing 40+ points.
I’m not sure if Holloway will be a spectacular goal-scorer in the NHL. I believe Holloway’s main areas of value will come from his transitional and play-making abilities. Alongside McDavid, Draisaitl, and McLeod, I expect Holloway to be one of Edmonton’s best forwards in terms of zone entries, a facet in which he’s excelled at every level he’s played.
Holloway has also proven to be a generally responsible two-way player, with strong on-ice results throughout his time in the NCAA and AHL. Even with Edmonton, Holloway produced a 50 percent goal share and a 54 percent expected goal share at 5v5, rates which are more impressive when you consider his lack of strong linemates. A line of Foegele, McLeod, and Holloway could be excellent at driving play against opposition third lines, with Holloway potentially providing the scoring touch on that line.
Overall, my general expectations are for Holloway to improve into a useful top-nine winger for Edmonton in 2023-24, a skilled two-way player who effectively moves the puck in transition, and could produce upwards of ~30 points.
With such a tight cap situation, the Oilers will rely on internal development in order to improve from last season. If Dylan Holloway can break out in 2023-24 and emerge as an impact player, it’ll push Edmonton one step closer to a Stanley Cup.
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