Oilers’ Holloway Could Go Straight From NCAA to NHL

Dylan Holloway, drafted 14th overall in 2020, is expected to challenge for a spot on the Edmonton Oilers roster in training camp. In April, the 19-year-old forward signed a three-year entry-level contract, turning pro after two seasons lighting up college hockey at the University of Wisconsin.

As a sophomore in 2020-21, Holloway notched 11 goals and 24 assists in 23 games to rank fifth in NCAA scoring. He was voted to the All-Big Ten First Team and was named a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (most outstanding player of the year in NCAA men’s hockey).

Dylan Holloway University of Wisconsin
Dylan Holloway scored 11 goals in 23 games for Wisconsin last season (Greg Anderson/UW Athletics)

With Holloway leading the way last season, Wisconsin finished atop the Big 10 standings for the first time in 21 years. The Badgers advanced to the Big 10 championship game and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.

Holloway actually joined the Bakersfield Condors on an amateur tryout in May but didn’t see any for the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate. He had been recovering from a broken thumb suffered during the NCAA tournament. The injury just delayed the inevitable.

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Holloway’s pro debut is coming next month, it’s just a question of whether it happens in Edmonton or Bakersfield. While his primary position is center, the left-shooting Holloway is also very capable at left wing, increasing the potential spots he could fill in Edmonton’s lineup.

Trail Blazers

It’s rare, but a handful of players in Edmonton’s NHL history have gone right from college to the Oilers without making a stop in between, and the list includes some notable names.

The first, Marko Tuomainen, is also the only to go from the NCAA to the NHL in the same season. The left winger, who Edmonton had drafted 205th overall in 1992, finished his senior year at Clarkson University and immediately joined the Oilers, playing four games in April of 1995.

As it was, Tuomainen would never suit up for another Oilers game and ultimately played just 79 career NHL games. But since then, every player whose first game after college came in an Oilers uniform was in the NHL to stay.

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Two players made the direct leap in 1996-97 – right wing Mike Grier (Boston University) and defenseman Dan McGillis (Northeastern University) – and both played significant roles for an upstart Oilers team that made the playoffs for the first time in five years. Grier played 79 games in the regular season while McGillis appeared in 73, and both dressed for all 12 of Edmonton’s postseason contests.

Grier was also named Top First Year Oiler in his rookie season, as were the next two Oilers to come straight from college: blueliner Tom Poti (Boston University) and center Andrew Cogliano (University of Michigan). Poti played 73 games in 1998-99 and was selected to the NHL All-Rookie Team; Cogliano played all 82 games and ranked fourth on the Oilers with 18 goals in 2007-08.

Cogliano is still in the NHL, signing with the San Jose Sharks this offseason after playing for the Dallas Stars in 2020-21, as is the most recent Oiler to make the NHL-NCAA jump, University of North Dakota alumnus Drake Caggiula.

A center who signed as a free agent with the Oilers in May 2016 after his senior year, Caggiula played in 60 regular-season games and all 13 playoff games for the Oilers in the 2016-17 campaign. He’s currently with the Buffalo Sabres.

Holloway’s Hopes

With the offseason acquisition of Warren Foegele, the Oilers are set at left wing on their top three lines, and Devin Shore has the inside track for a spot on the fourth, with Tyler Benson also in the mix. Of their younger wingers, the Oilers may feel more urgency to give Benson a look, given his age (23) and experience (three full seasons in Bakersfield), and because he’s a restricted free agent after this coming season.

Holloway may have a better chance of cracking the bottom six at center. Derek Ryan is a lock for one of the two spots. Still, after that, it’s an interesting competition that includes veteran Kyle Turris, who was a healthy scratch down the stretch and in the playoffs last spring, and 21-year-old Ryan McLeod, who supplanted Turris and has shown great promise, albeit in a limited sample size (two pro seasons, 10 regular-season NHL games).

The Time is Coming

As recently noted in The Hockey Writers’ Oilers News & Rumours, the belief is the Oilers will probably give Holloway a shot in the NHL this season, but not to start the campaign. If McLeod starts the season in Edmonton, Holloway could slot in at center on the Condors’ top line.

It’s hard to argue with developing Holloway in Bakersfield – better to overripe the fruit than pick it too soon – but his NHL potential has Oil Country excited. Whether he can realize it now will be one of the intriguing training camp and pre-season storylines to watch in Edmonton.

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