With just five picks and only one in the first three rounds, the Edmonton Oilers will have their work cut out for them at the 2021 NHL Draft, which takes place July 23 and 24.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
While hardly an ideal set of picks, it’s not that much different from what the Oilers had at the draft last year when Edmonton made six selections, five of which came after the third round. It will be some time before the Oilers’ 2020 draft can be judged fairly, but there is reason for overall optimism based on their prospects’ performance this season.
First Round, 14th overall
Holloway is on a fast track to the NHL, having signed with the Oilers in April to a three-year entry-level contract that starts with the 2021-22 season. In his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin, the forward was voted to the All-Big Ten First Team after notching 11 goals and 24 assists in 23 games to rank fifth in NCAA scoring.
A top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (most outstanding player of the year in NCAA men’s hockey), Holloway was the Hockey Commissioners Association National Player of the Month for February, a month in which he totalled 17 points in eight games.
Holloway also won silver as a member of Team Canada at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton, where he was used primarily in a checking role. He joined the Bakersfield Condors on an amateur tryout in May but didn’t see any action for the AHL team. He had been recovering from a broken thumb suffered during the NCAA tournament.
Fourth Round, 100th overall
Savoie had a standout freshman year at the University of Denver, totalling 13 goals and seven assists in 24 appearances for the Pioneers men’s hockey team.
One of three unanimous selections to the NCHC All-Rookie Team, the forward was Rookie of the Month from both the NCHC and NCAA in December. He received the Barry Sharp Award recognizing Denver’s Freshman of the Year and was the Denver Athletics Male Freshman of the Year. At the conclusion of the regular season, Savoie ranked first among NCHC freshmen in goals, shots, power-play goals and game-winning goals.
Fifth Round, 126th overall
While he did not get to suit up for his third season with the Oshawa Generals because the entire 2020-21 OHL schedule was wiped out by the pandemic, Tullio stayed sharp playing in the Slovak Extraliga, Slovakia’s top men’s league.
In early December, Oshawa loaned the winger to MHK Liptovsky Mikulas. Tullio played 19 games for the Slovak club, recording four goals, nine assists and 77 penalty minutes. Upon returning from overseas, he signed an amateur tryout with Bakersfield, but like Holloway, he did not appear in any Condors games.
Fifth Round, 138th overall
The Russian forward split the 2020-21 season playing junior in the MHL for Loko Yaroslavl and with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the KHL. He had 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 25 regular-season games with the former, then picked up eight points (four goals, four assists) in 16 playoff contests as Loko reached the championship final. Berezkin registered two assists in 31 KHL regular-season appearances.
Sixth Round, 169th overall
In his sophomore season at the University of New Hampshire, Engaras totalled 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 22 games with the Wildcats men’s hockey team, a slight dip from 2019-20, when the forward from Stockholm had 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 25 games as a freshman. With three shorthanded points, he ranked second in Hockey East for 2020-21.
Seventh Round, 200th overall
Lindewall, a right-winger with the Modo hockey club in his native Sweden, began the season scoring nine points (five goals, four assists) in eight games at the junior level. He then received a promotion to Modo’s team in HockeyAllsvenskan, the country’s second-tier pro league, where he totalled five points (two goals, three assists) over 36 games. Lindewall finished the season on loan to Örnsköldsviks, with whom he suited up for a handful of games in the third-tier HockeyEttan.
A hockey career is not made at age 18 or 19, and it would be unwise to put too much stock in this unprecedented season where the pandemic impacted, if not outright upended, nearly every player’s development.
That said, Holloway is as close to a sure thing as one can be at this point. The pride of tiny Bragg Creek, Alberta, could make his NHL debut as soon as Edmonton’s 2021-22 season-opener. With his all-around skillset and versatility to play either center or left wing – both positions where the Oilers need depth – Holloway could find an immediate role and areas where he can be impactful. As for the other five prospects in Edmonton’s Class of 2020, stay tuned.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.