Name: Dylan Holloway
Team: University of Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA)
Stats: 35 games played, 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points, 49 PIMs, -3 plus/minus rating
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 12th (North American skaters)
Comparable NHL players: Mikael Backlund / Adam Henrique
Two things that occasionally get brought up about prospects are their “ceilings” and their “floors.” A player with a projected high ceiling, generally speaking, is someone with a chance at being a superstar or franchise cornerstone, whereas someone with a low ceiling is expected to max out as a Bottom 6 forward or 6th or 7th defenseman. On the other side, a prospect with a high floor is considered to be an incredibly safe bet to make the NHL in some capacity, while someone with a low floor is a high risk to never step foot on the ice at hockey’s highest level.
For the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, few prospects have a higher floor than center Dylan Holloway, and that characterization will ensure that he doesn’t have to wait too long to hear his name called at the draft.
The University of Wisconsin forward — he missed the 2019 draft by eight days and was one of the youngest players in the NCAA this season — is quite an athletic teenager. Even though he doesn’t have the biggest frame, at somewhere in the neighborhood of six feet and 190 pounds, he plays an impressive power game. He uses his strong upper body to gain inside position on defenders, win board battles, protect the puck from stick checks and to get some heaviness behind his shot.
It’s his lower-body strength, though, that is the most impressive. He generates some excellent power from his skating stride, providing him with explosiveness in his first few steps and a great top gear. He has a lot of natural quickness to his movement as well, which can catch opponents off guard. He’s not exactly the most agile guy and he could use his edges better at times, but when you put all his physical tools together he’s very hard to contain, whether that’s while moving in a mostly straight line in transition or when working a cycle down low. There aren’t many other forwards in this draft who are quite as effective both on the rush and in the cycle.
Holloway is also a player who has a highly advanced and mature understanding of the game for someone his age. No matter what the situation is or what his role is, he always just seems to know exactly where to be and what he needs to do next. He can do a little bit of everything, from playing center or wing, powerplay or penalty kill, defending a late lead or trying to score an equalizer. For an NCAA rookie he was far from sheltered, and handled some difficult assignments.
It also needs to be mentioned that his work ethic is high and consistent. He just goes over the boards and puts in the work, time and time again, including going into the dirty areas where he will willingly take punishment to make a play. When the stakes are high you need players who will empty their tank on a shift to help the team win, and Holloway certainly fits that bill. This is a guy who is going to be a dream for all the coaches he works with in his career, because they’ll know that they can call upon him a lot and that he will be able to reliably handle himself no matter what happens around him on any given shift.
If there’s one notable knock about Holloway’s game it’s that he’s not exactly the most creative or purely skilled kind of guy offensively. Sure, there are some times where he’ll undress a defender with a nice deke, power past a defender wide or catch the opposing team off guard with a clever pass, but these moments shouldn’t be expected frequently. His passes and wrist shot are weapons at times, but he can have trouble capitalizing on the chances he gets. And when the enemy defense is already set, especially on the PK, he can have a hard time cracking it by himself.
The key with Holloway is appreciating the type of player that he is and what he brings to the table. Even though he might be a guy who tops out at 40 or 50 points per season in the NHL, he’s also going to push the pace and drive possession at even strength, he’s going to kill penalties, and, if his development goes smoothly, he should able to regularly go head-to-head against the top centers on other teams and shut them down. He’s not the most polished guy right on the defensive side of the puck, but with his physical tools, his hockey sense and his work ethic there’s a very real chance that he could become an elite defensive forward in the NHL one day.
And, as mentioned at the start of this article, there are few surer bets in this draft than Holloway is. While he might not excite a lot of fans from whatever team selects him, they can be reassured that their organization just added someone who should be a core roster player for a long, long.