Dylan Holloway’s pro debut was a long time coming, but his arrival in the NHL won’t require as much patience. After an impressive first two outings in the American Hockey League with the Bakersfield Condors last weekend, the Edmonton Oilers’ top-ranked prospect is on the fast track toward the next level.
In Bakersfield’s 4-3 victory over the San Jose Barracuda on Saturday (Jan. 22), Holloway had two assists – including one on the game-winning goal – and four shots. The 20-year-old winger then set up one of two goals on Sunday (Jan. 23) in a 5-2 loss to the Barracuda.
Playing his first games in nearly 10 months, Holloway looked neither rusty nor inhibited by the surgically repaired wrist that had kept the 14th-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft out of action since the end of his sophomore campaign at the University of Wisconsin. Moreover, he looked at home among pro players, both in playing and thinking the game. With his talent and ability, his performance did nothing to dissuade those who had Holloway pencilled into the Oilers lineup for the stretch drive.
Rave Reviews for Holloway’s Pro Debut
During an appearance on TSN 1260 radio in Edmonton on Monday (Jan. 24), Scott Wheeler, one of the leading reporters on NHL prospects and the Draft, said Holloway looked great last weekend:
“He was outstanding. That’s a big, big boost for him, just to get that confidence immediately at the next level, to not have to wait two, three, four games to feel like you’re making an impact. That’s a big deal. It gets him off on the right foot. It gets him the confidence of the coaching staff right away, and it gets him that sightline of, ‘I can now take this, I can get momentum with this, and maybe an NHL call-up is in my future before the end of the year, and maybe I’m playing come playoff time if the Oilers are in the playoff picture.’”
TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button took it a step further when he discussed Holloway’s short-term future as a guest on TSN 1260 on Tuesday (Jan. 25):
“I really believe that Dylan, if he didn’t have the broken hand, would have been able to start the season with Edmonton,” the former NHL executive said. “I thought he was ready coming out of college last year. I thought coming out of Wisconsin last year he was ready to come into the NHL and play. If he’s healthy and he shows that hand is all good, (and) if he can get his legs under him and get going, I think he’s a real viable option to come up, and not just play but contribute. Anybody can come up and play. You want someone to contribute, and I think Dylan can do that.”
Holloway’s Long Road to Recovery
After the Badgers were eliminated from the 2021 NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey tournament at the end of March, Holloway had surgery on a wrist fracture and was expected to be sidelined for about four weeks. Still, the Oilers inked him to a three-year, entry-level contract beginning in 2021-22. He looked to get his feet wet in the AHL when he joined Bakersfield on an Amateur Tryout deal in May, but a longer-than-anticipated recovery prevented him from getting his first taste of professional competition.
During the offseason, the Oilers’ medical staff and hand specialists determined Holloway required another surgery. The procedure was a success, and the organization announced in September, just days before the opening of rookie camp, that his recovery would take a minimum of three months. It wasn’t until late November that Holloway would get back on the ice.
Holloway’s Edmonton Arrival is Eagerly Awaited
There is long-standing anticipation for Holloway in Oil Country. The 6-foot-1 forward has generated as much excitement as any Oilers prospect in the last few years, and for good reason. He notched 11 goals and 24 assists in 23 games for Wisconsin last season to rank fifth in NCAA scoring. He was voted to the All-Big Ten First Team and named a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (for player of the year in NCAA men’s hockey). He was the Hockey Commissioners Association National Player of the Month for February 2021, after he scored 17 points in eight games. The Calgary product also won silver with Team Canada at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship.
Related Link: Oilers’ Holloway Could Go Straight From NCAA to NHL
Besides Leon Draisaitl, the NHL’s MVP and leading point-producer in 2020, Button says that Edmonton doesn’t have another player with Holloway’s speed and skill. “Big, strong, fast, hard, that’s how he plays,” Button told TSN 1260 host Dustin Nielson. “He’s hard on the puck, he’s hard on the forecheck, he’s an excellent skater, he’s smart, he’ll make plays, he’s going to be involved in those tight-area, small-area battles, and he’s going to create opportunities.”
He has also been compared to tenacious two-way winger Zach Hyman, and while it isn’t inaccurate, Wheeler believes Holloway will prove more talented. “I think you can expect a 50-point winger who’s a high-impact guy, a tier of player who’s just below the stars of the team,” Wheeler said while appearing on TSN 1260’s the Lowdown with Lowetide.
After defeating the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday, Edmonton is four points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They will try to move closer to a postseason berth on Thursday (Jan. 27) when they visit the Nashville Predators. Meanwhile, the prospect who could figure prominently in the team’s postseason push returns to action on Wednesday (Jan. 26) when Bakersfield takes on the Tucson Roadrunners: another step closer to the NHL for Holloway.
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.