Prized prospect Dylan Holloway inks 3-year entry-level pact with Edmonton Oilers

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Edmonton Oilers looked after an important piece of business on a sunny Friday afternoon when they signed 2020 first-round draft pick Dylan Holloway to a three-year Entry Level Contract that will take effect in the 2021-22 season.

The 14th overall pick in last October’s NHL Draft, Holloway enjoyed a breakout sophomore season at University of Wisconsin, where he erupted for 11-24-35, +10 in just 23 games. He also won a silver medal with Canada at the World Juniors here in Canada.

Alas, a couple of untimely injuries had their effect. First Holloway suffered an unspecified injury in the first game of the WJHC, missed a game, and played at under 100% upon his return. He was similarly banged up in the first game of the Big Ten tournament, in fact the first shift against Penn State, breaking his thumb. While he played out the season, which came to a disappointing end in the Round of 16, he later underwent surgery and remains four weeks away from being ready to go. That roughly corresponds to the end of the Oilers’ regular season. Unlikely, therefore, that he’ll get a chance to cut his NHL teeth in 2021.

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There did exist a scenario where Holloway was signed and burned off the first year of his ELC — as is the case with his celebrated Wisconsin teammate Cole Caufield, who won the Hobey Baker Award and signed his own ELC with Montreal Canadiens effective this season — but he and the Oilers chose a different path. That’s some good work by Ken Holland, who stands to have an excellent bargain contract on his hands through the 2023-24 season.

In Holloway the Oilers have added a versatile forward who is comfortable at either centre or left wing. Given the club has needs at both positions he has two distinct pathways to success, or a third in which he does some of each. Already a solid 203 pounds at age 19, the native of Bragg Creek, AB brings a splendid combination of size, speed, and hard-nosed play to a club that could use all three elements.

He played most of 2021 at centre in Wisconsin, where he excelled on the faceoff dot and on both special teams. At even strength he pivoted the second line with “the other” Caufield, Cole’s brother Brock, but frequently combined with Cole on the powerplay.

Holloway had a great start to the season, scoring in each of Wisconsin’s first two games, before taking leave of the club for eight weeks while he came home to Alberta to participate in the World Junior. That included extensive time in two separate quarantines, but eventually involved some high level hockey where he mostly played left wing with a variety of talented linemates, and served as a regular on the PK.

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Back in Wisconsin in mid-January, Holloway underwent a major heater in which he scored 2 or more points in 7 straight games and eventually in 11 of 13. He scored 9-21-30 over that 13-game span alone. Overall he went from a 0.5 points per game scorer as a freshman season to 1.5 per game as a sophomore. Put another way, in his “Draft” and “Draft +1” campaigns. Very good news from the Oilers, who it seems got a very exciting prospect from the middle of the first round.

In the short term Holloway told an on-line media avail that he will stay in Madison, Wisconsin to continue his recuperation and training. While his comments suggested that he and the Oilers hadn’t reached any firm conclusions about the end of the current season, it is possible he could report to Bakersfield under an amateur tryout (ATO) at the tail-end of the season and be available to participate in such playoffs as might occur in the AHL. That too remains an unknown at this point in a strange season that didn’t allow Holloway to so much as participate in a summer development camp with the team that drafted him.

Holloway was ranked the #3 prospect in the system in the Cult of Hockey‘s annual rankings last off-season behind fellow #1 picks Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg. Let’s put it this way: he won’t be dropping in those ranks in 2021.

His history in both the AJHL and Big 10 suggests he needs a little while to figure things out, and that will likely hold true in the professional ranks. Still, all arrows point to the versatile forward having a solid NHL future with the Oilers, perhaps beginning as soon as next season.

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Indeed, some hold hopes of him joining the team late this season and helping out in the playoffs. That’s a tall ask for a 19-year-old coming off an injury, so my own take is to set the bar of expectations low in the short term, but considerably higher in the future. Make no mistake: the Edmonton Oilers just got better.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: Oilers searching for solutions on the attack

McCURDY: Oilers game postponed (again). Sigh

McCURDY: McLeod, Lavoie impressing in Bakersfield

STAPLES: Cross-examining Edmonton’s crumbling offence

McCURDY: Kulikov should help back end, holes remain up front

LEAVINS: 9 Things, including that Edmonton’s biggest need is a top line winger

Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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