The Edmonton Oilers got their first pre-season game in the books and the team pulled out an impressive 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Both teams had similar looks as about six or seven NHL regulars dressed with about a dozen or so players on each side who had NHL games on their resumes. But, it was the play of Dylan Holloway from the Oilers that stood out. He was easily the best player on the ice from either side as he continues to impress in games that matter.
Holloway is looking to make an impression early in camp and he’s done just that. With a stand-out performance at the Rookie Camp in Pentiction and a strong showing in this first game of pre-season, he’s already making a case to be considered as a selection for this year’s regular season team. While he said, “I was just happy to win the game and get the first one out of the way,” he’s clearly playing with something to prove.
Holloway Is Likely to Start the Year in Edmonton
Whether Holloway lights it up or not, he’s likely to start the season in the NHL. Because of how performance bonuses work on entry-level deals like his, not having him on the opening-night roster could be costly for the Oilers down the road.
The rules regarding performance bonuses and the salary cap are somewhat complex. Essentially, when the team is in LTIR like the Oilers are, if the player starts the season with the team, his performance bonus goes into a performance bonus pool. If he doesn’t, the difference of that performance bonus counts against the cap if the player is called up during the season and his performance bonus exceeds what is in the pool. In other words, bringing Holloway up after the first game likely brings him in at a $1.4 million cap hit versus the $925K his cap hit is now. The Oilers simply can’t afford to have one dollar out of place as they navigate their way through the season so tight to the salary cap ceiling. Holloway is good enough to be in the NHL, he simply may not stay if he doesn’t earn the right to.
Holloway Is Making a Case to Stick Around
Maybe none of that salary cap and performance bonus juggling will matter. Based on the way he’s sped up and down the ice, been a force on offense, forechecked, and kicked in on special teams — he played 2:40 short-handed on Sunday — he’s proving himself to be quite useful. He earned the first star of the game honors in a 4-0 win and he was flying for all three periods, registering six shots on goal and three hits.
If he wants to get serious consideration, the key for Holloway is to prove that he’s capable of regularly playing in the team’s top nine. If he can’t maintain a spot in a very deep top six, he’s got to contribute in other areas, including the penalty kill and on faceoffs. Early on, he’s showing he can do so and what’s so important about that is the fact it shows he’s versatile and durable — he went 50% on the dot, coming off of wrist/hand surgery.
Holloway Finally Ready To Roll
The biggest concern for Holloway has been his unlucky injury history. Holloway is a prospect that was held in high regard and insiders pegged him to be a potential difference-maker. Unfortunately, he was injury-prone and his debut with the Oilers was delayed time and time again. That he looks healthy and up to speed is outstanding news.
This could be his year to show the hockey world what he’s capable of. While it’s merely a pre-season game and it was a rookie tournament, so far, all of the arrows are pointing in the right direction. The Oilers just need to keep him rolling and let him build confidence heading into that first game he’s likely to suit up for in 2022-23.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”