No one said it was going to be easy but the start to Dylan Holloway’s Edmonton Oilers career hasn’t exactly gone the way he or the organization had hoped. Through his first 16 games very little had gone the talented youngster’s way but that all changed during yesterday’s tilt with the New York Rangers.
With twenty minutes left to play and the Oilers staring at 3-0 deficit, a third consecutive loss seemed like a foregone conclusion. Well, looks can be deceiving. Within a span of just under six minutes, Edmonton found itself back on level footing and their rookie winger had his fingerprints all over the comeback.
No question, a persistent forecheck and strong net front presence were key factors in helping Evan Bouchard pot his first two goals of the season, it was the game tying goal Holloway won’t soon forget. It was a perfectly placed shot that found its way in behind Igor Shesterkin.
As far as first-goals go, sniping one past the guy most consider to be the best goalie in game is pretty darn special. Throw in the fact it came at a time when the team desperately needed a line without one or both of Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl on it to contribute and it had to feel all the more special.
Again, the Oilers had been waiting on this kind of production from the so-called others for what has felt like an eternity and it was a run of play that might just keep Holloway in the NHL for the foreseeable future. That’s right, a trip back to the AHL for the 21-year old appeared to be essentially a done deal.
Let’s be honest, were it not for injuries to Evander Kane and Kailer Yamamoto, the Calgary native would probably already be back in Bakersfield. While he might still spend some time in the minors during the course of the current campaign, that one period of hockey has unquestionably bought him more time.
The trio of Ryan McLeod, Warren Foegele and Holloway has started to click and breaking it up is simply a non-starter. The other thing to keep in mind, the importance of confidence cannot be overstated and after a period like that, you can bet this is the best the kid has felt since the pre-season.
Albeit against lesser competition, we saw what a confident Holloway could do in those exhibition games. Conversely, we have also seen just how uncomfortable he has looked after making some costly decisions with the puck and producing literally nothing on the scoresheet.
Being a rookie is hard enough and made all the more difficult when a player starts to feel the pressure of the moment. Squeezing the proverbial stick a little tighter is a guarantee and when that happens, it can snowball on the best of players. Never mind one with a handful of games on his NHL resume.
Unfortunately, the uncertainty in his game has led to less opportunity. While it would be great to see Jay Woodcroft give Holloway a little more rope, one can understand why that hasn’t happened. As things currently stand, the Oilers are already in the midst of trying to plug multiple holes in their ship.
The potential of adding even more onto said pile is something no coach would willingly do and certainly not one who is looking to win games. With that said, Woodcroft has kept the 2020 first-rounder in the lineup, with limited minutes. Not at an ideal set-up by any means but it’s what the situation allowed for.
Make no mistake, expectations were high for Holloway and remain as such. Now it’s just a matter of whether or not he can become an impactful piece from here on in or if that next step in his development comes in a year’s time. One thing is clear… the opportunity is there for the taking.