Dylan Holloway’s freshman year with the University of Wisconsin’s Badgers likely didn’t start the way he wanted.
The six-foot, 203-pound centre entered the season fresh off an MVP campaign with the Alberta Junior Hockey League and Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year honours, a feat matched by another Calgary product readers may be familiar with -- Cale Makar.
But Holloway struggled to reproduce this success early with the Badgers. He had just three goals and eight points at the beginning of February, despite earning top-six minutes and a spot on the power play.
But over the course of Wisconsin’s final 10 games, Holloway racked up five of his eight goals, finishing the season with 17 points across 35 games.
Despite his slow start, experts have seen enough from Holloway that he was projected to be selected in the middle of the first round, with Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino labelling him the 20th-best prospect on his final rankings.
Here’s what you need to know about the Canadian power forward, and why scouts remain high on the Calgary native:
Team: Wisconsin (NCAA)
Age: 19 (born Sept. 23, 2001)
From: Calgary, Alta.
Weight: 203 pounds
Slow start, so what?
Here’s the thing about Holloway’s early-season struggles at Wisconsin -- they were hardly surprising.
The 18-year-old was one of several young players -- including first-round picks Alex Turcotte (fifth overall in 2019 by the Los Angeles Kings) and Cole Caufield (15th overall in 2019 by the Montreal Canadiens) that were featured in prominent roles on a Badgers team that finished last in the Big 10 Conference.
“I think that's kind of natural (for Holloway to struggle). You have to remember, he was amongst a group of freshmen on Wisconsin this year, they had Turcotte, Caufield there, a couple of D-men -- like they were a fairly young team. So a young team playing in the NCAA, they're gonna have a hard time scoring goals,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting.
While the son of former NHL Bruce Holloway -- who had a cup of coffee with the Vancouver Canucks in the ‘80s -- had difficulty getting on the stat sheet, he was doing everything else on the ice well. And that’s why Marr remains confident in his potential and compared his season to that of one of the NHL’s top emerging power forwards.
“... When you went to watch (Brady) Tkachuk at (Boston University) when he wasn't putting much points at the start, it was the same as Dylan,” he said.
“You could see (Holloway) was doing all the right things. He was making the right decisions. He was in the right place at the right time. He was first on pucks, working, making hits, doing good things with the puck -- they just didn't end up in the net.”
A ‘complete package’
Though Holloway boasts plenty of skill, it's his powerful skating and physicality that separate him from the pack.
The six-foot pivot is remarkably adept at forechecking and collecting the puck in the offensive zone.
“What always stands (out) with him is that he's got really good speed, really good hockey sense, but it's just the character through which he plays the game and the presence that he has in that he's a competitor and he likes to win battles, he likes to win situations,” said Marr.
“Like he's in there in all the scrums and all the battles because he wants to win them. And ... he's a high-character, low-maintenance player.”
Marr offered high praise for the 12th-ranked North American skater on Central Scouting’s final rankings, comparing the Calgary teen’s game to that of a certain three-time Stanley Cup-winning captain in Chicago.
“He plays a Jonathan Toews-type game, and he's going to contribute offensively,” said Marr.
“He's too smart a player -- his hockey sense is so strong. He's just too smart a player to be kept off the board.”
Marr said the only aspect of Holloway’s game that was lacking was his confidence, which he started to develop as the season progressed.
“He started to produce and generate more chances as the year went along, and that's similar to (what) Tkachuk went through at BU. You start off going around the block, figure out the league and then you pick things up along the way,” he said.
“So all in all, his year was a positive year, he finished it strong and he's a pretty complete package -- there are not too many warts that you can find in his game.”
NHL teeming with Badgers
Holloway became the 16th University of Wisconsin player taken in the opening round of the draft and the sixth in the past five years.
He’ll join the ranks of the aforementioned Turcotte (his Badgers roommate), Caufield, K’Andre Miller (22nd overall by the New York Rangers in 2018), Luke Kunin (15th overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2016) and Trent Frederic (29th overall by the Boston Bruins in 2016).
And though Holloway’s freshman campaign likely didn't play out the way he imagined, scouts aren't sleeping on the Calgary centre's potential.