By Jason La Rose, Hockey Canada
BROOKS, Alta., — Dylan Holloway was a busy young man this season.
Including regular season, playoffs, selection camps and international duty, Holloway played 92 games, from the first selection camp contest with Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team on July 30 to the bronze medal game at the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship on April 28.
With that many chances to impress, it’s little surprise the Bragg Creek, Alta., native has been selected as CJHL Player of the Year.
Holloway is the fifth player from the Alberta Junior Hockey League to claim the award in the last seven years, and joins a list of former winners that includes Paul Kariya, Dany Heatley, Kyle Turris, Tyson Jost and Cale Makar, among others.
While he bookended his season with appearances in the Maple Leaf (and had a third in the middle of the year), Holloway did his best work with the Okotoks Oilers.
The 17-year-old finished second in the AJHL with 41 goals and 88 points, putting his name on the scoresheet in 42 of the 53 games he played – including 18 in a row from Nov. 24 to Feb. 2 – to earn AJHL MVP honours.
He added 13 points in 11 playoff games as the Oilers pushed the Brooks Bandits to six games in the South Division Final, handing the National Junior A Championship hosts their first two home-ice losses of the season.
It was quite a season, but like all good players, Holloway is quick to deflect the praise to others.
“We were a really good team this year, and the coaching staff put me in a lot of great opportunities,” he says. “I was playing with two unbelievable players in Austin Wong and Quinn Olson, and it was just a really fun environment. I was excited to come to the rink every day.”
The highlight of the season, though, came before the calendar turned to September. Holloway was part of the Canadian contingent that won gold at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer in Edmonton.
He chipped in a goal and two assists in five games, giving him momentum to take into the AJHL season.
“Usually when you go into camp, you’ve been off all summer and it takes a bit to be back to game ready,” Holloway says, “but I was lucky enough to start earlier and be part of a great team. So, the confidence going into the season was high.”
He picked up additional international experience at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge in mid-December, adding a bronze medal to the gold he won in 2017, and joined Team Canada for U18 worlds in April after the Oilers were eliminated.
Every time Holloway steps on the ice, the goal is to get better. But there’s something different about international hockey and the chance to see how you stack up against the best in your age group.
“The opportunity to play for my country always helps my development,” he says. “[The game is at] a high level, and every coach I’ve had through the [Program of Excellence] has been unbelievable. It’s been so beneficial to be part of a program like that.”
A new season will bring a new challenge for Holloway, who will enroll at the University of Wisconsin this fall. And unlike most of his 2001-born peers, he’ll have the added pressure of preparing for the NHL Entry Draft (his Sept. 23 birthday is eight days past the cut-off for the 2018 draft).
Except that Holloway doesn’t see it as pressure.
“I try not to look at it that way,” he says. “Obviously, I want to have an unbelievable year; it’s going to be a big year for me. But I just want to establish a role [at Wisconsin] and do the best I can do and have fun with it.”