EDMONTON — On a team that has its top two centre positions sewn up for years to come, 18-year-old centreman Dylan Holloway enters life as an Edmonton Oiler the same way his folks approach their livelihood running a helicopter operation in Bragg Creek, just outside Calgary.
While parents Bruce and Torrie Holloway haul skiers up the mountain for heli-skiing all winter before rotating to help fight fires in summertime, Oilers GM Ken Holland sees a player who might help on offence some of the time, but certainly can fill out the important bottom half of the roster if need be.
“A lot of times you draft a player, and if they don’t grab a spot in the top six, they have trouble checking well enough to play lower in the roster,” Holland said. “[But Holloway] has the ability to help in different ways beyond just getting points.”
Holland drafted Holloway with the 14th pick in Tuesday’s NHL Entry Draft, fully expecting him to climb his way onto Connor McDavid’s or Leon Draisaitl’s left wing one day.
“I’m so excited,” Holloway said after the draft. “The Edmonton Oilers have a ton of history, a great organization — and it’s close to home. I have a lot of family and friends from Calgary.”
Full disclosure: “Growing up, I did cheer for the Flames,” he admitted. “Definitely not anymore.”
He’s big — six-foot-one, 203 pounds — and turns 19 on Sept. 23, entering his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin. He’s smart, well spoken, and “in a league where speed is important, he can really skate,” Holland said.
“He’s a big man, and he led the Alberta Junior Hockey League in scoring as a 17-year-old (with the Okotoks Oilers). Not many players do that. I talked to (Wisconsin head coach) Tony Granato this week, and Tony spoke very highly of his character and work ethic.”
To recap, Holloway has size, speed, and as a teenager at least, superior offensive instincts. Last season he was the second youngest player in Div. 1 college hockey, and he grew as the year went along. Five of Holloway's eight goals came in his final 10 games.
He wore No. 4 on a team that included fellow first-round picks Cole Caufield (Montreal), Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles) and K’Andre Miller (Rangers).
“It was really nice for me — going into my draft year they’d just experienced theirs,” he said. “They helped me out as far as the media, the pressure and everything.”
He’ll get more ice time and responsibility this coming season at Wisconsin as perhaps some or all of those players won’t be returning. Then we’ll see if that MVP season in Okotoks — 40-48-88 in 53 games — was a fluke or a trend.
“It was announced today that our season starts on Nov. 13. I’m in Madison now, training with the team,” he said.
What kind of kid is Holloway?
Well, he appears thoughtful at first glance, an outdoorsman from the foothills of the Rockies, and smart enough to think on his feet. How about this take, from colleague Mark Masters:
“In June, (I) asked Dylan Holloway about the trickiest question (he’d been asked) in NHL Interviews: ‘Would I rather have $20 in my pocket right now or have to fish out $100 from a toilet?’ What did he say? ‘I said the $100, because I'm not afraid to go to the dirty areas.’”
His father, Bruce, played his only two NHL games with head coach Harry Neale’s Vancouver Canucks in the 1984–85 season before a serious injury sent him back home to the B.C. interior, and eventually to Bragg Creek and the helicopter business. His son is a much better player, and although Dylan says he has learned a lot from his dad, he tailors his game after two slightly better players.
“Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Toews are two guys I want to model my game after,” he said. “Good two-way centremen, tough on pucks. That’s the way I want to play.”
He knows there is a ton of work ahead if he is ever to take an NHL shift on McDavid’s flank. There isn’t a cocky bone in this kid’s body, or so it seemed on draft night.
“Connor McDavid is the fastest guy in the league,” Holloway said. “In order to keep up with him I’ll have to work really hard on my skating. And decision making. Sometimes, even before I have the puck I’m going to have to know what I’m going to do with it.”
IN THE CREASE: Holland said he would not be making qualifying offers to two either of Andreas Athanasiou or defenceman Matt Benning. They carried cap hits of $3 million and $1.9 million respectively last season, freeing up almost $5 million in cap space.