Oilers Should Keep Holloway in the AHL To Develop More

From the moment he was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, 14th overall, of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Oil Country has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of prized prospect Dylan Holloway. That anticipation has only grown more feverish with time, as a wrist injury requiring multiple surgeries has delayed the forward’s seemingly impending NHL debut.

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

Holloway didn’t even suit up for his first pro game until Jan. 22 with the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League (AHL) where he’s been playing the past two months.

When THW last checked in on Holloway’s progress, several weeks ago, Oilers broadcaster Bob Stauffer had suggested that Holloway could join the Oilers in late March or early April.

We’re there now. Winter has officially become spring, only a few days remain in March, and April is less than a week away. But despite the calendar, there are no signs that Holloway will be coming to Edmonton any time soon, and that’s a good thing.

Oilers Forward Depth is Greatly Improved

Much of the eagerness in Edmonton for the 6-foot-1 left winger stemmed from the Oilers’ lack of forward depth. A terrific skater with physical gifts and some offensive pop, Holloway has been seen as being able to immediately address several of the team’s deficiencies.

But the need no longer exists, at least not anywhere close to the same degree of desperation, thanks to a number of positive developments in Edmonton, beginning with the addition of Zach Hyman via free agency last summer.

The signing of Evander Kane, progression of Ryan McLeod, rejuvenation of Derek Ryan, emergence of Kailer Yamamoto, return of Josh Archibald, and trade deadline acquisition of Derek Brassard are just some of the many reasons, some minor, others essential, that the Oilers now have their most complete forward unit in years. The results back it up too – going into their game Saturday (March 26) against the Calgary Flames, Edmonton had gone 18-8-3 since Jan. 21, giving them the third-most points (39) in the entire league over that span.

Related: Oilers Signing of Kane Could Be Biggest Midseason Move In Team History

If Holloway were to be called up now, he would probably just end up sitting in the press box. As the saying goes, you don’t fix what ain’t broke, and right now there is no spot in Edmonton’s lineup where one could say with certainty that replacing the incumbent with Holloway would be for the immediate betterment of the team.

Holloway Going Through Ups and Downs in the AHL

It might be different if Holloway was dominating the AHL on a nightly basis. He started strong, notching five points in his first five outings with the Condors, but then went the next six games without a point. He’s subsequently scored five points in the next five games, followed by three in six, and then was on a four-game pointless streak before picking up an assist in Bakersfield’s 7-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday (March 25).

All told, through his first 27 games in the AHL, Holloway has seven goals and seven assists with a rating of minus-3. There have been impressive moments, there have been growing pains and all the ups and downs in between that you’d expect from a 20-year-old who’s just two months into his pro career.

Overall, the Oilers have to be pleased with the progress Holloway is making. The Calgary product’s game is coming along fine, just not yet to the point where it screams promotion to the NHL. So with everything clicking in Edmonton, why rush him?

With the opportunity to play a major role over the 14 games remaining in Bakersfield’s regular season, and then potentially during a deep playoff run, Holloway stands to gain some tremendous experience with the Condors that could do wonders for him heading into Oilers training camp next September.

Holloway’s Time in the NHL Will Come

That he’s not in the NHL already is no doubt frustrating for Holloway. It’s been a trying 12 months since his Wisconsin Badgers were eliminated from the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey tournament on March 26, 2021.

Dylan Holloway University of Wisconsin
Dylan Holloway of the University of Wisconsin (Greg Anderson/UW Athletics)

With his sophomore season over, Holloway had surgery on a wrist fracture and was expected to be sidelined for about four weeks. In April he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Oilers beginning in 2021-22.

During the offseason, the Oilers’ medical staff and hand specialists determined Holloway required another surgery. The procedure prevented him from participating in Oilers rookie and main camps, the latter where he had been expected to contend for a spot on Edmonton’s season-opening roster. It wasn’t until November that he could even get back on the ice, and another two months until he finally played his first game as a professional.

Holloway spending all of 2021-22 in the AHL isn’t an indictment on the young forward, it’s a testament to how the Oilers have managed to solidify their forward group. They don’t need him to be the cavalry now. His time will come, but not before he’s ready.

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