Lowetide: What’s Holloway’s future fit on Oilers depth chart?


On Tuesday night, Dylan Holloway had a glorious opportunity to score a goal in the Bakersfield Condors’ opening game of a playoff series against the Stockton Heat. Cooper Marody sent a cross-ice pass to a streaking Holloway as he drove to the net, and he got a terrific shot on goal against goalie Dustin Wolf.

A great save was all that kept Holloway from scoring.

The save extended Holloway’s goalless streak, which has now reached seven games and 25 shots going back to the regular season.

Based on his final college season at Wisconsin (using Rob Vollman’s NHL equivalencies) fans could reasonably have expected Holloway to post a point per AHL game, and more than 20 goals in a full season with the Condors.

Two surgeries (wrist) altered the point projection (and estimated goals). In his pro debut, the centre/winger came in with eight goals and 22 points in 33 regular-season games.

Visually, Holloway is a joy to behold in the AHL, his skills on display seemingly every shift. Aggressive on the wing with terrific speed and passing ability, his touches per game (not an official stat) have to be near league best.

Based on his games in Bakersfield, he will be a strong candidate for a role with the Edmonton Oilers in 2022-23.

Where will he play? More importantly, how much will he score? Can the Oilers move out a top-nine winger to make room, or is more time in the minors possible?

Goals

If Holloway is going to play on a skill line, goal scoring ability has to be a bullet point on the resume. He scored well with Wisconsin and improved year over year.

Holloway posted good shot rates (2.51 shots per game) with the Condors. That compares well with Kailer Yamamoto (1.87) at 20, the same age Holloway is now. The recent AHL king in shots per game is Jesse Puljujarvi, who averaged 2.79 shots per game at 18. Here are Holloway’s career totals, including shooting percentage by year:

YearLeagueGoalsShotsSH Pct

2019-20

Big-10

8

84

9.5

2020-21

Big-10

11

77

14.3

2021-22

AHL

8

83

9.6

Using the seasons 2015-16 through 2019-20, Holloway’s shooting and scoring rates match several AHL prospects (at 20) who went on to the NHL:

PlayerGoals-GameShots-GameShooting Pct

0.27

2.27

12.1

0.27

2.78

9.6

0.26

2.88

8.9

0.24

2.51

9.6

0.24

1.8

13.9

Jake DeBrusk is the closest match factoring in goals, shots and shooting percentage. DeBrusk played in the AHL at 20 before entering the NHL at 21. Per 82 games during his five-year career, DeBrusk is averaging 23.5 goals per NHL season, with a 12.5 shooting percentage and 2.3 shots per game. That would be a supreme result for Holloway, and implies he will play on a skill line in Edmonton.

Lawson Crouse is also a solid match, although not a similar player type.

The group emerged early in entry-level contracts as NHL options and scored an average of 18 goals per 82 NHL games as a collective.

It’s also true forwards who did not emerge as NHL players delivered similar results in the AHL at age 20. A.J. Greer (47 NHL games) is a comparable who hasn’t established himself as an NHL player, and would fit loosely with Holloway’s rookie AHL numbers.

The overall feel of the group is a net positive. If he delivers like his comparables, Holloway is a lock to play in the NHL, spend some time in the top-six forwards and remain a top-nine option during the heart of his career. That’s a quality player.

His two wrist surgeries (the final one in September) remain a concern, and we may not see the complete picture of Holloway as a shooter until the fall.

Playmaking

Watching Holloway in the AHL is an experience. His speed and passing ability make him a high octane offensive prospect in Bakersfield. He is useful at even strength as a forechecker and creates great chances, but the offence in 2021-22 was split between even strength and the man advantage.

Game StateGoalsPointsPts-Game

Even strength

5

5

0.3

Power play

3

9

0.36

PK

0

0

0

Holloway may develop into a power-play performer in the NHL, but that’s unlikely in 2022-23. His even-strength numbers look shy for a skill line candidate from the AHL, but are they? Here are recent Condors forwards prospects, age 20, and their totals at even strength.

PlayerYearNumbersPts-game

Kailer Yamamoto

2018-19

4-8-12 in 27G

0.44

Ryan McLeod

2019-20

5-13-18 in 56G

0.32

Dylan Holloway

2020-21

5-5-10 in 33G

0.3

Holloway’s scoring at even strength in Bakersfield aligns with Ryan McLeod, who entered the NHL as a third- or fourth-line centre and has spent time on skill lines. For the season, McLeod scored 9-12-21 in 71 games with the Oilers, spending time at centre and wing.

The deployment this season for McLeod might offer some insight into Holloway’s 2022-23 season if he lands in Edmonton. Here are the most common lines for McLeod in the regular season.

LineTOIGoals-60Goal Share

Foegele-McLeod-Kassian

85

1.41

33

McLeod-Draisaitl-Hyman

65

1.86

29

Foegele-McLeod-Ryan

46

2.61

100

Foegele-McLeod-Puljujarvi

43

1.4

50

McLeod-McDavid-Hyman

37

1.62

50

McLeod spent most of his time on the two bottom lines, but did see action with skill during the season. His speed was a big attraction for the coaching staff, and that may benefit Holloway when he arrives in the NHL.

Where will he play?

There are times when the eye and the math do not align. I’ve watched Holloway in the AHL and he’s a terror in puck pursuit and a fine passer. His shot has been improving, and perhaps that area of the game will help the math climb to the levels the visual implies in his Bakersfield games.

Based on watching Holloway, he fits a skill line in Edmonton easily. The young man is aggressive, turns over pucks on the forecheck and sends quality passes to linemates. That’s the resume for Yamamoto, Puljujarvi, Evander Kane and Zach Hyman, Edmonton’s current skill wingers.

All but Yamamoto have shot rates at five-on-five over 8.40 per 60, and the club needs more shooters.

Holloway has 16 shots in four postseason games, a decided uptick from the regular season.

The future

Much depends on the transactions of this summer. Holloway’s path to the NHL probably starts at left wing, and he’ll need a trade (possibly Warren Foegele) in the middle six to have a chance.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland slow-plays talent, even first-round selections. The wild card in the Holloway story is how much strength he can gain in the wrist, and his ability to beat NHL goalies consistently.

The eyes say he’ll land on a skill line; math is aiming lower.

What is Holloway’s future? Too soon to know.

(Photo of Ken Holland and Tyler Wright: Michael Bobroff / NHLI via Getty Images)





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