Oilers’ Holloway Has Had a Frustrating Start to Rookie Campaign

Edmonton Oilers forward Dylan Holloway was the talk of the preseason. In six exhibition games, he recorded four goals and two assists, including a hattrick against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 3. The 14th-overall pick from the 2020 NHL Draft showed off his speed, skill, and tenacity throughout training camp and earned minutes on the second line alongside former Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl.

Heading into the regular season, he made his case to play in the top six alongside Draisaitl and Zach Hyman, but unfortunately, that was short-lived. A costly mistake dropped him to the bottom six, and two games later, he received a hellacious hit that took him out of the game against the Buffalo Sabres. With a mixture of bad luck and bad timing, it’s been a frustrating start to Holloway’s rookie season, to say the least.

Tough Start for Holloway

Holloway played his first NHL game in the Western Conference Final against the Colorado Avalanche last spring and played his first NHL regular-season game against the Canucks on Oct. 12. His “Welcome to the NHL” moment came on his first shift, just two minutes into the game. He received the puck in the defensive zone and attempted to thread a pass to Draisaitl but, instead, put it right on Elias Petterson’s tape. Petterson waltzed in and tucked the puck behind goaltender Jack Campbell. Credit to Holloway for his backcheck on the next play to rectify the error, and he nailed Petterson with a hard hit. But the goal was already scored, so it was a little too late.

Head coach Jay Woodcroft sat the 21-year-old for the next seven minutes, and Holloway was promptly removed from the top six, playing 8:06 in his first game. He appeared on the show “After Hours” with Scott Oake on Oct. 15, and when asked about the giveaway, he said, “Obviously, not how I drew it up, but I saw (Draisaitl) come through the middle, I thought I could hit him, but obviously, it led into a turnover and into a goal. But the biggest thing is not to get down on yourself, and thankfully, I have some really good teammates — as soon as I got to the bench they said, ‘Hey don’t worry about it. It happens.’”

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In a Battle of Alberta on Oct. 15, chalk it up to bad luck, but unfortunately, Holloway again contributed to the first goal against just over a minute into the game. Flames defender Michael Stone unleashed a point shot that hit Holloway’s stick on the way to the net. He was attempting to block the shot, but in the process, the puck changed speeds. Campbell was able to make the initial save, but the puck bounced to Mikael Backlund, who buried the rebound. In just over eight minutes of ice time, Holloway finished with a minus -1, but he was credited with three hits on the night in the 4-3 loss.

Holloway’s misfortunes continued against the Sabres on Oct. 18. Oilers forward Warren Foegele delivered a pass from behind Edmonton’s net that was intended for Holloway — it was a suicide pass up the wall – and Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin caught Holloway with his head down and delivered a vicious open-ice hit. Foegele must’ve known the pass he made was dangerous because he quickly went after Lyubushkin. Holloway skated away on his own and was taken to the dressing room, but he didn’t return to the game.

Holloway Will Find His Way

Since that giveaway against the Canucks, Holloway hasn’t been given a chance to show off his offensive flair in the top six and has averaged 8:16 of ice time in two games. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is playing badly. The Oilers have given up early goals and have had to play catch-up for most of the young season already, which has also contributed to his limited ice time. Woodcroft has loaded up a line with his dynamic duo, Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, on many occasions to spark the offence. He’s also been forced to use his more experienced offensive forwards in an attempt to tie the game.

Dylan Holloway Edmonton Oilers
Dylan Holloway, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Oilers’ colour commentator and host of “Oilers Now,” Bob Stauffer, noted that Holloway was not seen on the ice at practice on Oct. 19, and Woodcroft mentioned that there is no official update on his status yet. Hopefully, the hit the Bragg Creek, AB native took does not cause any severe setbacks, especially after the combination of nerves, bad luck, and bad timing in his first few games. Still, he has made the most of his 20 minutes of ice time by being physical and delivering seven hits.

Related: 5 Fun Facts About Oilers’ Dylan Holloway

Nonetheless, the 6-foot-1 and 203-pound forward has a lot of upside. He’s a former Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) MVP, and a former Canadian Junior Hockey Player of the Year, and he’s been successful at every level he’s played. Once the Oilers decide to play a full 60 minutes and string together a series of wins, that success should have a positive impact on Holloway’s game.

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