Dylan Holloway Skating With Oilers: Is Team Rushing His Return?

The Edmonton Oilers need to do something. Amidst a string of losses, coaching change rumors and players like Leon Draisaitl having to deal with questions about whether or not there is any quit in this team, the club is trying to find line combinations that work. On Friday, reports started making the rounds that a highly-touted prospect was getting a look in a top spot in the forward corps and potentially ahead of schedule based on early reports about his injury and a stint in the AHL.

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As per insiders like Reid Wilkins, — and then confirmed by the Edmonton Oilers social media account — forward prospect Dylan Holloway was on the ice at the Oilers’ practice on Friday.

Holloway’s Injury Situation

On the surface, this might seem like interesting timing. The Oilers are down Connor McDavid due to COVID protocol, don’t have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins thanks to an injury that could keep the forward out three to four weeks and the team is looking for a spark offensively. The last reports about Holloway’s injury were that he’d need at least three months after having a second surgery on his wrist. Those reports came in the middle of September 2021.

Technically, this return matches the timeline originally reported, so this isn’t necessarily the team rushing the player back into the lineup because of these absences. Head coach Dave Tippett said after practice on Friday that Holloway will see the doctor again on Monday and noted, “That could be his final hurdle for him to get back playing.” If given the green light, the expectation is that he could head down to the AHL soon.

What Holloway With the Oilers Might Mean

It’s too early to read too much into the fact Holloway was skating with the Oilers or the fact he took Kailer Yamamoto’s place when Yamamoto had to leave practice — he tested positive for COVID on a rapid test and was pulled from the ice. This could simply be about the team wanting the rookie to get some reps with the big club knowing that their future games are likely to be postponed and he’s not going to suit up for the team anyways. As Mark Spector of Sportsnet reports, this could just be a stop before heading to the AHL. He writes, “Holloway skating with the big club, which means he must be very close to an AHL assignment. Good news.”

Related: Oilers’ First Goal Problems Extend Beyond Koskinen

Holloway should immediately be sent to Bakersfield to get reps under Jay Woodcroft. He hasn’t played a game (in the NHL or otherwise) in months and even the most veteran of players need a conditioning stint when coming back from long-term injuries. It makes sense that the Oilers wouldn’t want to push a player like Holloway — who has never played an NHL game — into the lineup or ask him to do too much if he isn’t ready. This is especially true if there are any lingering questions when it comes to his wrist injury.

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Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer said at the end of December that “Holloway has been skating for a while. He is starting to shoot more. Could see him in Bakersfield mid-to-late January or early February.”

If He Stays, Can He Make An Impact?

If the Oilers are looking at playing Holloway, there is an argument that he could be an important addition to this team at a time where the club badly needs an injection of energy. Holloway has been deemed NHL-ready by a number of scouts, but injuries have kept him out of the line-up. He’s a versatile forward that can play wing or center and the Oilers are short-handed. He’s rugged, dogged, skilled, and big. He could be just what the Oilers need.

Dylan Holloway University of Wisconsin
Dylan Holloway of the University of Wisconsin (Greg Anderson/UW Athletics)

Edmonton was outscoring their problems early in the season. While it’s not a habit the team wants to get into, this club isn’t good enough defensively to win just on shutting down the opposition alone. They need scoring and, while unproven, Holloway may be able to provide that.

If Holloway is ready, maybe the Oilers give him a look. A couple of games isn’t going to hurt, is it?

Long-Shot Theory: Is This a Showcase?

As much as the Oilers know Holloway is an important long-term for this team, it’s hard not to wonder if a playing Holloway now also showcases him for a potential trade. If the Oilers are going to make a move — or a series of moves — at the NHL trade deadline, Holloway is a name that other teams will ask about. It’s been said the Oilers aren’t keen on the idea of moving the player, but if there’s a rental or marquee trade out there that general manager Ken Holland knows can really help this club, it takes giving to get.

If Holloway plays and plays well, that’s going to up his stock come March 21 and there will be teams willing to see the forward as a key piece to any big deal. Until he plays, Holloway is not much more than a question mark with big potential.