Oilers Should Give Dylan Holloway an Opportunity to Play

The Edmonton Oilers battled their way to a 5-3 come-from-behind win in Game 2 against the Calgary Flames on May 20. The series is tied 1-1 heading back to Edmonton, but lately, there’s been chatter about one of the Black Aces, Dylan Holloway, getting into the lineup.

Oilers’ colour commentator Bob Stauffer spoke of the Oilers’ prospect on his radio show “Oilers Now,” and said after the loss in Game 1, “It’s time for Dylan Holloway. Edmonton needs more speed on the left side, I would play Holloway at third-line left-wing.” He added, “It takes real big (guts) to put Holloway in at this time of the season, but that’s what I would do.”

The former 14th-overall pick from the 2020 Draft hasn’t suited up in an NHL game yet; however, he had a decent first season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bakersfield Condors, tallying 22 points in 33 games. With his powerful skating stride and speed, it would be low risk to see how he performs in the playoffs, and the upside could be tremendous.

Holloway’s Speed Could Be an Advantage Over the Flames

The argument could be made that inserting a player that’s never suited up for an NHL game in his career and then casually sliding him into the first Battle of Alberta in 31 years in the playoffs, would be throwing him to the wolves. However, he has the size (6-foot-1 and 203 pounds) and speed to potentially be highly effective in the series.

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

Stauffer also mentioned on his radio show, “I’m not the coach, I’m not the manager, but Holloway — when he does get in Edmonton’s lineup, you’ll be surprised as to who he reminds you of, because there was a guy that was here, that was picked higher in the draft than Holloway, not in the same draft year, and they have a very similar skating style.”

By my own personal assessment of watching Holloway play with the University of Wisconsin Badgers, Stauffer is comparing his skating style to former Oiler, Taylor Hall. Not saying he would be able to produce points like Hall, but if his speed is anywhere near comparable, he’d cause fits for Flames defenders, especially the slower ones, like Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov.

Holloway took part in the Oilers’ pregame warmups in Game 2, which could be an indication that he could see game action soon. He could play on the left side on the fourth line and replace Josh Archibald, who played eight minutes in Game 1, but saw a decrease in minutes played to 4:39 in Game 2. Why not give Holloway a shot in those limited minutes?

At worst, he can have a few shifts and head coach Jay Woodcroft can assess the situation. If the pressure and nerves set in and he bobbles the puck and looks out of place, that’s fine. At that point, Woodcroft can shelter his minutes, like he did Archibald and Zack Kassian (4:16 time on ice) in Game 2. However, the best-case scenario is that he looks comfortable from the get-go, uses his speed effectively, and looks like a threat to produce points. If that happens, not only would it inject a potential scoring threat from the fourth line, but he could also make a case to move up the lineup if he looks like he can handle the load.

Making a Case for Holloway to Play in the Playoffs

Holloway has experience playing in “big game” situations. He represented Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2021. He started off on a checking line and dished out body checks throughout the tournament that made the highlight reels. He was known for his versatility to play in all situations, including the power play and penalty kill, and by the end of the tournament, he worked his way up to playing top-line minutes, recording two points in five games, helping Team Canada capture a silver medal.  

Also, Holloway has similarities to Montreal Canadiens star, Cole Caufield. The Canadiens forward was selected 15th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, and the Oilers’ prospect was selected 14th overall just one year later. The pair were teammates and linemates at times, at the University of Wisconsin, from 2019-to 21. In 58 games, Holloway produced 52 points, and in 67 games, Caufield tallied 88 points. In 2021, both were nominated for the Hobey Baker Trophy as the top player in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), with Caufield taking the honours.

Caufield joined the Canadiens for 10 regular-season games last year after his season was finished with Wisconsin in the NCAA playoffs, but he took his game to a higher level in the playoffs with the Canadiens. He sat the first two games against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, but was inserted into the lineup by Game 3, and he never looked back. He played in 20 playoff games and scored four goals, added eight assists and was instrumental in getting the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final. With the way Caufield helped the Canadiens in the postseason, it’s worth the look to see if his former Badger teammate, Holloway, can produce similar results.

Related: Oilers Columnist Suggests Draisaitl & Nurse Should Rest Due to Injury

As the Oilers battle their way through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, injury will start to take its toll on their players. If the Oilers have a prolonged playoff run, they’ll need fresh legs and more speed in their lineup, and Holloway, who is originally from Calgary, can be a low-risk, high-reward player that could pay immediate dividends.

Sign up for our regular 'Oilers Newsletter' for all the latest.