Dylan Holloway is a proud Canadian: Gimme a C, gimme an A, gimme an N.
The Edmonton Oilers first-round pick certainly wants to tug on a Canadian jersey for the world juniors here over Christmas because he’s also a proud Albertan from Bragg Creek.
Also, he was cut from last year’s selection camp and wants another shot at it, but Hockey Canada’s month-long camp in Red Deer also means the University of Wisconsin sophomore forward could be away from his team for seven and a half weeks.
Holloway, who played for Canada’s U-18 gold-medal squad here at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in 2018 as a 16-year-old, has his Wisconsin college season starting Nov 13, three days before players are supposed to report to Red Deer. That’s a plus, actually playing games while the Western Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League is on hold until January and February.
But, still, Holloway has had to weigh college team vs. junior team.
“We do have eight games (Wisconsin) before the Christmas break and that factors into this,” said Holloway. “But the world juniors is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to pass that up would be hard. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is what I want to do.
“It is a long camp but the opportunity to put the logo on and play for your country is a cool experience. It’s something I’m really looking forward to, playing for Canada,” said Holloway, who plays centre and left-wing and will probably be looking for a spot on wing as a power forward with Kirby Dach, Dylan Cozens, Quinton Byfield and Peyton Krebs as the top four in the middle, on paper.
Holloway, who is at his college apartment in Madison, Wisc., taking courses online with his major in personal finance, has been practising there for two months. And playing two Big Ten games in two weeks against an unnamed opponent will give him a leg up.
He won’t have to quarantine for two weeks to come back to Alberta, and won’t have to grab a plane early next week.
“From what I understand, there’s that new program, a (COVID pilot) test, as a Canadian citizen when you cross the border into Alberta now,” said Holloway, the 14th-overall player picked Oct. 6. Since he lives in Bragg Creek, he can fly into the Calgary airport where he’s been countless times.
They get the results in two days while in quarantine. If negative, Holloway can leave quarantine but he will need a second test in six or seven days at a participating pharmacy to make sure he’s still negative.
There are four Canadian kids at U.S. colleges invited to the Red Deer camp. Boston College forward Alex Newhook, defenceman Owen Power (Michigan) and goalie Devon Levi from Northeastern in Boston. Newhook and Holloway were at last year’s shorter camp and didn’t make it. But both have excellent shots at it this time around, although if Alexis Lafreniere, the first-overall draft pick of the New York Rangers, plays again, he’s one more left winger in the mix.
Power, a Chris Pronger-type without his nastiness, could go first overall in 2021, according to TSN’s hockey draft guru Craig Button. But he may be in tough as a left defenceman amongst the eight defencemen picked, because of several returnees.
Levi, Kamloops goalie/battler Dylan Garand and Hlinka-Gretzky 2018 winner Taylor Gauthier might be leading candidates in net – as usual, the team’s biggest question mark.
Holloway loves his Wisconsin teammates but knows he has to be at the camp for maximum exposure, also knowing his Hlinka-Gretzky coach Andre Tourigny is also head man for the U-20 crew. Tourigny has a feel for Holloway’s game from when he was the youngest player on that 2018 team. So, he’s not impressing a new face, plus he’ll be in the Oilers’ rink for the tournament if he makes the team. “Super-cool,” as he says.
That said, a month-long camp is a long time even though Holloway says, “It makes sense with all that’s going on and lots of guys having no games.”
There are 18 players from the OHL, which doesn’t start play until Feb 4, without body-checking because of COVID concerns, according to the Ontario health minister. And 15 from the WHL, which doesn’t begin until January.
Holloway didn’t have that long of an audition last year, before the heartbreak.
“Wasn’t fun getting cut, but I guess I wasn’t what the coaches were looking for,” said Holloway, who factors as a second-line left winger with the Oilers or No. 3 centre after he leaves school.
“I was rooming with Liam Foudy and they tell you there might be a knock on the door to say the coaches want a meeting with you. When they knocked on the door, it wasn’t a good sign. Wasn’t really a race to the door to open it,” said Holloway.
Foudy (playing in Columbus now) made it. Holloway didn’t.
Now, Holloway has a much better chance, but it’s a deep group of kids trying to impress.
“Players all want to make this team but there’s a lot of challenges here,” said Button.
Indeed, the nine invited players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, have been playing games before COVID hit. They’re going to be without a player for not just weeks, but months.
“A player like (Calgary first-rounder) Jakob Pelletier is the captain of Val d’Or,” said Button.
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On Twitter: @jimmathesonnhl
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