Oilers’ Holloway Should Not Only Make the Team, But Play Top-6

A big topic of conversation heading into this year’s training camp for the Edmonton Oilers was if Dylan Holloway would be able to make the team. They had numerous options to fill spots in the lineup at forward, but have been gladly surprised by the skill, speed, and effectiveness Holloway has shown from the start.

Every game that passes only solidifies Holloway’s case to make the Oilers as they will put the best team on the ice and could use the low cap hit his contract provides. He has two more seasons left on his entry-level deal at $925,000. He has put his skills on display and made the decision nearly impossible not to keep him in the NHL.

Holloway Shined Instantly With Legitimate Top-Six Role

Throughout the preseason, Holloway has gotten looks in the top-six before, but not with the linemates he got to play with in the game against the Vancouver Canucks. Now that it’s later in the preseason and there are few games left, the young forward is getting a shot in a spot where he could be playing in the regular season.

Dylan Holloway Bakersfield Condors
Dylan Holloway, Bakersfield Condors (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Holloway was put on the second line alongside Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman and had an incredible game, further making a strong case to not only stick with the Oilers but also play in the top-six, as he recorded three goals, one assist, five shots, and three hits. Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft even said, “I thought that line with Draisaitl, Hyman and Dylan, they were the best line on the ice; they controlled the puck, they didn’t give up a ton against” (from “Dylan Holloway making strong case to stick with Oilers”, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 3, 2022). If Holloway can continue to play great on the second line, the Oilers will seemingly have two first lines.

Related: 3 Oilers in Contention for League Awards in 2022-23

Oilers general manager Ken Holland had mentioned that Holloway would have to play his way onto the team, and he’s done just that each and every night from Penticton to now, no matter which role or line he’s been on.

Originally, if Holloway was going to make the Oilers, it was projected he would play on the third line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan McLeod. That would’ve worked just fine if he hadn’t continuously impressed and stood out every game he’s played. As it stands right now he should start on the second line, but if this play continues, looks on the first line are also likely, as he possesses the speed and finishing ability needed for a top-six player.

Possible Repercussions of Holloway Entering Top-Six

If Holloway starts the season on the second line for the Oilers, that means it will directly affect Jesse Puljujarvi in a major way. He was originally set to play on the second line right wing and have a good opportunity to redeem himself from the second half of last season. He has a one-year contract, but the trade rumours should once again start to pick up.

Puljujarvi hasn’t had a bad training camp, but Holloway has undeniably stood out and it would be a huge mistake to send him back down to the American Hockey League (AHL). If Holloway is going to take Puljujarvi’s spot and outperform him while having a cap hit of over $2 million less than Puljujarvi, the choice becomes clear. The Oilers should resume serious trade talks in moving the Finnish winger.

Jesse Puljujarvi Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Holloway’s presence in the top-six is not the only factor that could force Puljujarvi out of town at this point. Warren Foegele has had a very strong camp as well and instead of playing on the fourth line, he is more than capable of third line minutes as was intended when the Oilers traded for him. The third line of Nugent-Hopkins, McLeod, and Foegele have formed chemistry and have been together all training camp. So does that push Puljujarvi down to the fourth line or right off the team in a trade?

Having tradable assets is never a bad thing. There are many who think Puljujarvi is still a strong defensive player with potential, but others who think that he’s received too many chances and it’s time to part ways with him. With how the Oilers appear to have set up their top-nine, Puljujarvi may still have a fair shot at producing offensively. He doesn’t get time on special teams and has shown he struggles to score for long stretches. The Oilers need consistent producers and it doesn’t seem like Holloway is going anywhere. This is great for Edmonton as the team has so many great pieces, but sacrifices must be made to become champions. As a result, Puljujarvi could unfortunately be the player the Oilers choose to part with.

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