Oilers’ Holloway Must Learn to Use His Size Before Jumping to the NHL

With each passing day and every game he plays, Oil Country is counting down to the Edmonton Oilers debut of prized prospect Dylan Holloway.

The 20-year-old winger’s arrival in Edmonton has been a long time coming, and fans are already imagining what the Oilers’ lineup could look like during the stretch drive with the addition of Holloway, a terrific skater with physical gifts and just enough offensive pop to potentially slot right into the top six.

Related Link: Oilers Must Avoid Dylan Holloway Call-Up Unless Deadline Trade Follows

On his part, the 2020 NHL first-round draft pick has done nothing to dampen this enthusiasm. Over his first six games with the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League, Holloway notched a goal and four assists and fired 13 shots.

But no amount of fantasizing can change the reality that Holloway isn’t even two weeks removed from his first game of professional hockey, and over his amateur career playing Junior A and college hockey, with the Okotoks Oilers and Wisconsin Badgers, the star forward never appeared in more than 53 games in a season.

Holloway’s jump to the best league on the planet should only come when he can contribute positively to the Oilers without risk of setting back his development. And whether such time comes sooner than later could hinge on how quickly the six-foot-one, 203-pound Holloway learns how to get the best out of his powerful body.

Woodcroft Gives Update on Holloway’s Progression in AHL

During an interview Thursday (Feb. 3) on TSN 1260 radio, Bakersfield head coach Jay Woodcroft spoke to this, providing great insight into how the Condors are fashioning an NHL-ready player out of Holloway’s mold.

Dylan Holloway University of Wisconsin-Oilers' Holloway Must Learn to Use His Size Before Jumping to the NHL
Dylan Holloway played NCAA hockey at the University of Wisconsin (Greg Anderson/UW Athletics)

“The two big things that stand out are his size and strength, and his physicality,” said Woodcroft. “He’s not just a good skater, he’s an elite skater … he’s a low-to-the-ground, powerful guy and he gets to where he needs to get to quickly and powerfully. That’s a major strength of his. If you saw the things he can do in the gym you’d be impressed, and if you looked at his body frame, you’d say that’s the prototypical power forward NHL hockey player body frame.”

Woodcroft, who has a sterling track record of readying players for the NHL, said there is a difference between being “NCAA strong” and “professional hockey man strong.”

“What I mean by that is just the little ways you can position yourself to protect pucks, to win 50/50 puck battles, how you can pre-bump somebody to establish inside position – those types of little things that come from experience.”

Holloway Is Back on Path to the NHL

From the minute he turned pro last April, signing with the Oilers to a three-year, entry-level contract beginning in 2021-22, Holloway has had a spot written in pencil on Edmonton’s roster. However, a wrist injury that required multiple surgeries prevented Holloway from taking part in Oilers rookie and main camps and delayed his pro debut until Jan. 22 when he had two assists in Bakersfield’s 4-3 victory over the San Jose Barracuda.

While any doubts about the success of Holloway’s recovery have already been put to rest, it is fair to be wary of the proverbial rookie wall. This is a player that went nearly 10 months between games of any kind and is now returning smack dab in the middle of a pro schedule that is much busier than his experience the last two years at Wisconsin, where he essentially only played games on weekends.

“For some of the players that have just come out of the NCAA, there’s an adjustment to a pro lifestyle, a pro schedule,” Woodcroft said while speaking on TSN 1260. “I think Dylan’s case is a little bit different because he’s been off for so long, he’s just really starting his year right now, he’s starting his development as a professional hockey player, he’s starting to feel the every day of the American Hockey League.”

Possible Timeline for Holloway’s Oilers Debut

Edmonton still has 40 games left on their schedule, and with their forward depth bolstered by the recent acquisition of free-agent winger Evander Kane, Oilers general manager Ken Holland and coach Dave Tippett might not be so quick to recall Holloway.

As speculated by Oilers broadcaster Bob Stauffer, a good bet is for Holloway to join the Oilers in late March or early April, after getting 20-25 games experience with the Condors playing 18-20 minutes each game and being used in every situation. Provided he plays every game, Holloway would hit the 20-game mark on March 7 and appear in his 25th contest on March 19.

After hosting the Colorado Eagles on Saturday (Feb. 5), Bakersfield will be off for the AHL All-Star break, before returning to action on Feb. 11 to begin a stretch of 9 games in 16 days.

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