Hockey August 20, 2018

Dylan Holloway didn’t get an invite to Canada’s national under-17
development camp last summer, but with the camp in his backyard he wasn’t
about to let his disappointment get in the way of an opportunity to learn.

“I live 30 minutes away [in Bragg Creek, southwest of Calgary], so I came
and watched just to see the competition, and what this was all about,”
Holloway says. “It motivated me quite a bit. I understood that I had to get
better to be a part of these camps and tournaments, so I just kept working

Obviously, the hard work paid off.

Fast forward one year, and Holloway is on the ice in Calgary this week,
competing at Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp
and aiming to crack the Canadian roster for the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup,
which opens Aug. 6 in Edmonton and Red Deer.

What changed? What allowed Holloway to go from the outside looking in at
the top 111 players in his age group, to a place as one of the best 44 in
the country?

It started early. With the motivation from his U17 snub driving him, the
16-year-old burst onto the scene as an Alberta Junior Hockey League rookie
last fall, recording points in 13 of his first 16 games for the first-place
Okotoks Oilers.

So when Josh Williams went down with a collarbone injury in practice just
days before the start of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, it was
Holloway who was selected despite not attending summer camp.

“I was actually playing a game in Drumheller, and after the game the
coaches brought me into the dressing room and told me I got the call to go
play U17s,” he says. “I was ecstatic. It’s sad to see an injury like that,
but for me to get called up, I was happy about that.”

“We’re always tracking for that guy who may need to come in because of
injury, and he was a player that really got onto our radar fairly early in
the season,” says Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen. “The start he had
in Okotoks, and talking to guys who were watching – his name always seemed
to come quickly. He trended so quickly in the first few months, that when
there was an opening we went right to him.”

Holloway joined a star-studded Canada Red roster that included all three
CHL No. 1 picks for the 2001 age group – Peyton Krebs, Alexis Lafrenière
and Ryan Suzuki – and held his own, helping the team to a place in the gold
medal game.

And although a 6-4 loss to the United States meant silver, the University
of Wisconsin commit left Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C., with
something just as valuable – confidence.

“The competition is so good,” he says. “You have to play and play smart;
there is no time to do circles or not back-check, you have to do all those
little things. So I tried to bring that back to my club team.”

He slid right back into the line-up in Okotoks and continued to produce
before earning his second tour of international duty less than a month
later, this time with Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge in Truro,
N.S., in December.

The youngest player on the West roster, Holloway posted two goals in the
tournament, including the final marker in a 5-1 win over the U.S. in the
gold medal game that gave the Canadian side its fifth WJAC title.

He credits his U17 experience for helping prepare him for the road to gold
in the Maritimes.

“It helped me quite a bit,” Holloway says. “Being in [the World Under-17
Hockey Challenge], I knew what the routine was – get up in the morning,
eat, stretch, pre-game skate – so it helped me prepare for the World Junior
A Challenge.”

Unfortunately, the second half of the season wasn’t quite as successful as
the first; Holloway was bit by the injury bug in late December, missing the
final 23 games of the regular season, although his body of work was enough
to earn him a place on the AJHL South Division All-Rookie Team.

He returned in time for the playoffs, scoring in all four games of the
Oilers’ sweep of the Camrose Kodiaks in the second round, and chipping in
seven points in total as Okotoks reached the AJHL final.

The long playoff run meant a short off-season, but it’s on to the next
challenge: wearing red and white and representing Canada at the Hlinka
Gretzky Cup.

“He skates extremely well and he’s an intelligent player,” McEwen says.
“The way that our coaches want us to play, he is a good fit. He is an elite
player in his skill set and the things he has to offer. When we put the
evaluation together, we were confident he would have a chance with us.”

Now it’s up to Holloway to make the most of that chance.

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