The 2020 NHL Draft will be October 6 & 7, conducted remotely. The Calgary Flames have a first-round selection and will pick 19th overall. In advance of the draft, we’ll be looking at some contenders to be selected at 19th.
Next up? The Wisconsin Badgers power forward that can flash some bonus flair, southern Alberta product Dylan Holloway.
Hailing from Bragg Creek, Alberta, Holloway burned 1/16th of a tank of gas and motored to Calgary to play U15 hockey for the Jr. Flames program—if the (professional) Flames draft him, cue a million melted hearts from the homegrown connection—before logging some astronomical numbers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for the Okotoks Oilers that attracted the attention of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s infamous Big-10 Division 1 NCAA squad.
In a limited freshman role, the late-2001 used his already sturdy 6’1” 203-pound frame to his advantage last season and established himself as a premier checking talent. Alongside his unmatched physicality, the left-handed dual centre and winger shines among his draft class as a terrific skater. Picture something like the unholy humanoid offspring of a speedboat and a bulldozer.
Offensively, Holloway owns a blistering wrister that usually exploits unsuspecting goalies on their blocker-side. It is a smooth slingshot release that he often unveils on the rush, sprints and whips. He has also shown glimpses of a gifted passer, the intuitive sort that likes drop-passes and feints and one-touch feathers backdoor. But he has yet to display such prowess consistently at the NCAA level, scoring at only around a half a point per game clip. Some wonder then if he quite possesses the vision and creativity of your quintessential top-six NHL pivot. He certainly does have the bare skills to create and execute plays, as the above highlights index, but the mist surrounds whether he can apply them game in, game out, at the NHL level.
— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) December 1, 2019
But what he does bring on a daily basis is the torque and tenacity of an excellent skater. He can absolutely thunder, stampede down the ice with the help of two beefy legs and a massive stride. Watching highlights, you can practically hear his skates dig and carve through the ice through the screen. But he does so with ease. He is strong, not clunky. He tears atop the ice, he does not grind into it. Holloway pushes up the ice less like a rolling tank than some bulky swinging marionette on skates, dipping and scraping and springing back up with every stride.
— Brandon Holmes (@BHolmes_Hockey) November 27, 2019
And his mixture of speed and size lends itself to finishing some vicious hits. The man forechecks like a rushing boulder—the consistent hard F1 every forward line needs, though not the one every line deserves (ahem, Flames’ top trio). Best of all, Holloway can dole out devastation in all three zones. He angles defencemen in the opposing corners, barrels forwards behind his own net, surprises puck-carriers open-ice. Particularly when he plays centre, Dylan Holloway uses his soles and shoulders alike to serve as fast and fearless support in either end of the ice.
Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects was simple and succinct in his appraisal of Holloway’s game:
“A powerful, two-way pivot. Boasts a heavy release that he uses to draw defenders before expertly distributing. Made a nice impact at Wisconsin as a true freshman. Strong overall package.”
And the Draft Analyst’s Steve Kournianos elaborated on these strengths, specifically pinpointing the physical maturity by which Holloway distinguishes himself among draft-eligible forwards:
Blessed with ideal size and excellent balance, Holloway is a jack of all trades who can play either center or wing; serve as a playmaker or finish around the net; and most importantly, be matched up against opposing top players. Although his start with the Badgers has yet to produce eye-popping stats, one must consider his ability to impact shifts without denting the scoresheet. Additionally, he was a key figure in a Wisconsin recruiting class that also included forwards Alex Turcotte, Cole Caufield, and Owen Lindmark, so there is only so much puck for these talented underclassmen to share. Holloway is a hound off the puck who consistently applies pressure with physicality, especially on the penalty kill. He gets involved on the forecheck and creates turnovers thanks to smart reads, proper stick positioning and quick turns towards the direction of puck travel.
Essentially, Dylan Holloway brings some fantastic parts to the draft board, but there remain questions concerning their relative sum. He has the grit and gristle of a true power forward, coupled with a powerful, protective stride, and flaunts it every shift. But the skill factor seems to come in waves, bursts. Is he destined to peak as an unremarkable but albeit effective third-line checking centre in the NHL? That seems to be his floor at the moment—and it is still a very handy and respectable one for any NHL squad—but if he steadies his offence and leans on his hands a little more as he develops in college, the stock could skyrocket.
As the above Draft Analyst report mentioned, Holloway occupied the backseat among the Wisconsin freshman forward crop. So it follows that he would receive less usage, touches, etc. compared with fellow youngsters Caufield and Turcotte. Nonetheless, Holloway still notched a respectable 8 goals and 17 points in 35 games for the Badgers. As an 18-year-old depth forward and power play afterthought, those are still decent numbers. After a year playing a broader role higher in the lineup and more integral to special teams (beyond his status as a reliable penalty-killer) next season, one would expect his production to likewise sprout. Perhaps his most noteworthy stat, however, was the 49 penalty minutes he registered for the Badgers last season. The man is tough, truculent, engaged all the time. And that is an asset.
Dylan Holloway with his first NCAA goal. He crashes the net and bangs home the rebound of a Tarek Baker shot. Credit former #NTDP player Sean Dhooghe with the secondary🍏. #Badgers pic.twitter.com/xC1sYuFg0V
— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) October 13, 2019
But how did Holloway even get to Wisconsin? Simply put, he did it by posting one of the greatest draft-eligible AJHL seasons in league history. As a 17-year-old (and someone who had another full season of draft eligibility awaiting him afterwards), Holloway scored 40 goals and 88 points in only 53 games. He finished second in the league in both goals and total points during that 2018-19 season, only one goal and two points shy of each respective title, despite playing five fewer games than the leading goal-scorer and six fewer games than the leading point-scorer—and both of those guys were three full years older than him. And his 1.66 points-per-game stood at the time as the highest production rate for any draft-eligible player (with a minimum of 30 games) in a single AJHL season within the previous 40 years of documented stats before him. Woof.
Availability and fit
Well, concerning his fit, the Flames already have one brash and brutal physical centreman on their roster in Sam Bennett, flanked by two equally belligerent wingers in Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube. But Lucic is aging, Dube is rising, and Bennett may very well be shopping for a condo in Seattle a year from now. The third line may need some supplemental oomph in the next couple years, and Holloway could be just the body to provide it. Plus, he definitely has sharper puck skills than Lucic already and could very well eclipse Bennett quickly in that regard, too. His ceiling? Dillon Dube 2.0. And if Dube proves himself a top-line guy by the time Holloway blooms, the Bragg Creek kid could plug that hole immediately.
— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) February 15, 2020
As for his availability at 19th overall? To quote fellow FlamesNation writer Mike Gould over Twitter DM discussions, he is “right in the Flames’ wheelhouse.” Elite Prospects names Holloway as the 18th-ranked prospect of the 2020 NHL Draft, while FC Hockey slots him in at 15th, ISS Hockey at 20th, Craig Button at 14th, McKeen’s Hockey at 26th, and Bob McKenzie at 17th. The average ranking there levels out at 18th overall—within a single rung of the Flames on the draft board.