Remember when I said the NHL was becoming a skill league where undersized forwards can succeed? I completely stand by that statement, but I have to admit that if you can combine skill with size it will make you that much more difficult to play against.
The power-forward is just as important as the skilled sniper in today’s league. While undersized players will rely on their skating and agility to generate offence, the power-forward will do the same through sheer force and puck protection. It’s a role that the Oilers have had a hard time securing on the wings.
Edmonton’s latest venture into trying to bring in a capable power-forward was Milan Lucic. Arguably the best of his time, Lucic was expected to play alongside Connor McDavid and pave the way for the young phenom in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, the Oilers got Lucic during the downswing of his career and, as his skills diminished, it became obvious that sheer force and size weren’t enough to succeed at the top of the lineup.
Ever since the failed Lucic experiment the team has been desperate to find someone of a similar physical build but with increased skill to play alongside their captain. Leon Draisaitl was the closest they could get but, considering Draisaitl is a natural centre, it makes sense that the team decided to split the two up.
As the Oilers search for a winger for McDavid, there might be just the player on the board that ticks off all the boxes. Let’s take a closer look at NCAA center/left-wing Dylan Holloway.
Who Is Dylan Holloway?:
The 6’1” 203lb Bragg Creek, Alberta native spent the past season in the NCAA playing for the University of Wisconsin. His offensive struggled in his freshman year with the club, putting up just 17 points in 33 games, which pales in comparison to his 88 points he scored in the AJHL in 2018/19. Despite this, Holloway is heralded as a complete player who is well rounded in both his defensive and offensive abilities.
He is extremely fast for a player of his size and scouts laud him for his on-ice vision and decision making. He is a power-forward in every sense of the word, never shying away from a puck battle and always puts out a high compete level. This should make him a valuable player as you don’t often see big players combine their size with the speed and hands that Holloway shows.
His ability to hold onto the puck while moving at high speed is something that makes Holloway’s game special. He has an incredibly fast first step that can catch opposing players off guard and he is able to change direction on a dime. Combine this with great balance and the ability to absorb hard checks while keeping control of the puck and you got a player that is very hard to stop.
Of course, that lacklustre offence at the NCAA level is concerning for a few reasons. He did play with some elite-level talent, with Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte leading the team, so it was a little troublesome that he didn’t produce more than he did with those players. It was his freshman year at the level so it could be attributed some growing pains, but it is something that needs to grow if he wants to become a regular top six forward in the NHL.
Let’s see what the experts are saying:
Sam Cosentino (Sportsnet): “As the NCAA’s second-youngest player, his adaptation to the college game took a long time, but he was beginning to look a lot like the 2019 CJHL Player of the Year by season’s end.”
Mike Morreale (NHL.com): ”The left-shot forward has good hands, high compete and a drive to create offense. He should be the first college player selected after he had 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 35 games as a college freshman.”
Ryan Goethals (The Hockey Writers): “He is a big, two-way power forward that will bring grit and toughness to the lineup. He has drive, determination, and a willingness to play in the tough areas of the ice while retrieving pucks and driving the play. His ability to play both centre and left-wing will go a long way in the development of his NHL career.”
Dave Stevenson (Puck Prose): “Holloway’s skating is what really stands out the most to me. He’s an outstanding skater with top-notch speed and agility. Holloway is also a very effective skater and a strong one as well.”
Does He Make Sense At 14?:
Unlike some of the other prospects that I’ve covered, there does seem to be a consensus range for where Holloway ends up on draft day. Let’s take a look at where he ranks on various lists:
Bob McKenzie (TSN): 16
Craig Button (TSN): 14
Sam Cosentino (Sportsnet): 15
Josh Bell (The Hockey Writers): 15
This is probably the most consistent ranking of a player that I have seen in Edmonton’s range. Holloway projects to be picked between pick 14 to 16 and the first NCAA player to be taken in the draft.
I think it is safe to say that he would make a world of sense if at the position that Edmonton is poised to pick at.
Potential Fit with Oilers?:
Holloway provides the Oilers with something that not a lot of other prospects can offer at this range: size and skill. Most of the other players are on the smaller side but Holloway blends both an NHL frame and high level skill right from the get go. His skating is something that should have the Oilers very interested. His skating ability is at an NHL level right now and he would make the Oilers top six that much more difficult to play against.
When it comes to where he could potentially slot in on the roster, it has to be with McDavid. Holloway’s frame and skillset would work beautifully alongside the captain. He would be able to keep up, carry the puck and help the line win board battles, which is an area that McDavid could use some help him. He is a possession player that could keep the cycle going, something that Edmonton has been looking for.
I don’t anticipate Holloway to be quite NHL-ready just yet, however, so we shouldn’t be penciling him into the lineup for this upcoming season. He still needs to improve on actually generating offense at the NCAA at a consistent level. He showed signs of improvement near the end of his season so there is a lot of hope that he will put it all together during the 2020/21 season. I could see him making a case for an NHL job in 2021/22.
There is a lot to love about the raw aspects of Dylan Holloway’s game. His size and skating highlight what you want to see in a modern day power-forward and his vision on the ice is close to being NHL-ready. He would provide the Oilers with a tenacious winger that combines physicality and skill unlike anyone else currently on the roster.
As I mentioned numerous times, there are still some kinks in his game that need to improved but, if he can put it all together, he could become quite an impressive player for the team down the road.
Do you think Dylan Holloway is the right player at pick 14?