I admit, this Oilers fans was way too excited to watched the University of Wisconsin kick off the 2020/21 NCAA Hockey season with the first of back to backs against Notre Dame. I spend 3-4 hours over the course of two days trying to find a way to gain access to the game - I finally succeeded, for a small financial outlay.
Why was I so excited? Dylan Holloway was set to play his first game of the seasons and the Oilers 2020 first round pick, 14th overall, certainly did not disappoint. Unlike last season, where he spent most of his time playing the wing, Holloway centered the Badgers’ second line last night and he put in a night’s work that should have Oiler fans elated.
To my, potentially biased, eye, Holloway was the best player on the ice.
His speed was dominant and on display shift after shift after shift. His speed carrying the puck through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone for clean entires was intoxicating.
He almost always made a plus play once he got in to the offensive zone including one rush where he out-battled a defender at the Irish blueline to receive an area pass at full speed and broke towards the net for a mini-break. Another example was, after a clean zone entry he drove towards the net from the outside and proceeded to make a smart last second drop to the trailer for a solid chance.
His speed and aggressive was also evident on dump-in and I can’t recall a dump-in where he wasn’t the first to to the puck on the forecheck. A few times he arrived at the same time as the defender and proceeded to use his size to win a puck battle.
.Twice he found the soft spot in the slot and took a pass for a high danger chance. Once at evens which was stopped and once for the insurance goal on the powerplay.
In addition to his speed, he used his size and strength routinely to win battles, most impressively, in open ice (not on the boards) for 50-50 pucks. One example, he blocked a shot at the point, the puck scooted out the neutral zone, he outraced one defender and arrived at the puck at the same time as another who he proceeded to outmuscle in open ice and take possession of the puck to create an offensive zone cycle shift.
He took a few defensive zone face-offs protecting the lead in the that last 10 minutes and ended up an impressive 10-4 on the draw.
Holloway was out on PP1 on both powerplay opportunities but didn’t see any time on the penalty kill.
Negatives? Well, there weren’t many, it was an impressive performance for the sophomore. He wasn’t the most “dynamic player” with the puck on his stick and, at least in this game, was very much a “straight-line player”. Is that even a negative?
Holloway plays his second game for Wisconsin tonight and I am hopeful for a repeat performance. This will be his last game for the Badgers for likely 5, if not, 7 weeks as, he’s scheduled to head to Alberta for the Team Canada World Juniors Selection Camp that starts on Monday.
We could use the comments Section to chat about (a) how his skillset seems like a perfect fit for McDavid’s left wing and (b) if leaving his club team for 5-7 weeks for a camp and some exhibition games against the lines of U of A and NAIT is the best for his development.