Oilers prospects Dylan Holloway and Philip Broberg set as playoff extras

CALGARY — The Oilers’ two most promising prospects appear to be closing in on potential duty in an upcoming playoff game.

For a player, it would be a chance to bank on a modest NHL playoff debut. For the other, making an appearance against the Flames would represent his first game in the major league.

Black aces Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway, the organization’s first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, respectively, both took warm-ups ahead of Game 2 at the Saddledome. Although they were wearing overalls when the puck was dropped, the fact that they were asked to put on their gear means they are in the picture.

“These two players are part of our team. They’re young players,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said. “I thought it would be a great experience for them, especially in this building. We felt they were ready for it. That’s why we did it.

“We have a lot of very good players available that we can draw from and those two are definitely in that group.”

Both players joined the Oilers for good this week, taking part in the series’ first morning practice Wednesday in Calgary after the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors were knocked out of the playoffs last week. They, along with Condors captain Brad Malone, have been skating with the team ever since.

Other call-ups like defenseman Markus Niemelainen and goaltender Stuart Skinner chose to meet the team in Edmonton to further increase the depth of the team.

So it was Broberg and Holloway, the two farmhands believed to have the brightest future in the NHL, who were in Calgary to get some extra seasoning — and be an option to play.

“Being with the team is always a good feeling,” Broberg said. “I’m just happy to be there and support them.”

It means that little extra for Holloway. He grew up just outside of Calgary in Bragg Creek, Alta., as a huge Flames fan. That has changed now, of course.

“It’s an unreal experience,” Holloway said. “It’s pretty cool to be so close and to be able to watch the playoffs, especially an Alberta battle. Growing up in Alberta, this was always a big deal when the two teams played each other. Now that I’m part of it, it’s been a pretty cool experience.

Broberg left the rink for practice Friday morning with the regulars. He was an option to play because Tyson Barrie didn’t come to the rink; Barrie was under bad weather but eventually took his usual place in the lineup alongside partner Brett Kulak.

Holloway stayed out late to get extra work as he was not expected to attend a game that night.

They just try to put themselves in the best position to help the team and be ready if called upon.

Broberg already had the chance to play in his first NHL playoff game earlier this month. It was a case of his toes being dipped in the water rather than the coaching staff asking him to dive straight into the deep end.

With Darnell Nurse suspended for Game 6 of the Los Angeles series for headbutting, Broberg was called up and entered the lineup for an elimination game. Veteran defenseman Kris Russell was also signed, and the Oilers outfitted seven defensemen. Broberg played just five quarters and 3:16 as the Oilers won and forced Game 7 at home.

“It was really fun. The nerves were there for sure,” he said. “We were very lucky to get that win against LA, so I’m happy.”

A playoff debut was the final feather in Broberg’s cap as he exceeded expectations in his first professional season in North America. The bar was set for him to acclimate to a different environment on and off the ice on a new continent after injuries derailed at the end of his final season in Sweden.

Instead, his solid underage play, combined with injuries to Oilers defensemen or COVID absences, has seen Broberg become a relatively frequent traveler between Bakersfield and Edmonton.

Philip Broberg (Sergei Belski / USA Today)

The 20-year-old defenseman has four goals and 23 points in 31 games in the minors. He had three points in 23 games with the Oilers, including his first NHL goal in the penultimate game of the season, April 28 against the Sharks.

“It helped me a lot. You get experience playing, and I got to play a few games this year,” Broberg said. “I was really lucky and really happy.”

Broberg’s only downside to the season was an ankle injury that cost him a month of action from March 18 to April 22.

If only Holloway had been so lucky.

Holloway didn’t make his professional debut until January 22 after recovering from a second operation on the scaphoid, a small bone at the base of his left wrist. He spent the first half of the season in Edmonton under the watch of Oilers doctors and, as he neared a return, skating coach David Pelletier.

The 20-year-old striker got off to a great start with two assists in his first game in 10 months. From there, management felt he had a season of ups and downs as he adjusted to the pros. Then, like Broberg, Holloway missed nearly a month (April 6-30) with a knee and thigh injury. The illness cost him any chance of being recalled to the Oilers at the end of the season.

Holloway had eight goals and 22 points in 33 regular season games for Bakersfield. He added two goals and four points in five playoff appearances.

“It’s been a weird year,” he said. “Coming out of an injury plan is always difficult, especially when I haven’t played that long. But I thought it was a really good year. We have a really good group of guys at Bakersfield. was great. I thought I finished strong. I’m just really happy to be a part of that in the playoffs here.

As Broberg and Holloway bide their time, they are happy to be together.

Once Holloway arrived in Bakersfield in January, he lodged in a house with Broberg, Michael Kesselring, Dino Kambeitz and Ostap Safin. The 2021 World Juniors rivals are now also roommates with the Oilers.

“I would say I’m definitely the cook,” Holloway said. “He likes to command a little. We get along pretty well.

“Living together in Bakersfield has helped a lot in becoming closer friends,” Broberg said.

They’re ready for whatever comes next with the Oilers.

Getting time in Bakersfield has helped both players, they said. Broberg felt that playing for the Condors allowed him to learn to make decisions more quickly. For Holloway, it was about realizing the importance of puck management and avoiding turnovers.

Broberg has had the chance to play before. He could be the next man in the event of an injury or the coaching staff deciding to adjust the roster.

“If something happens, I’ll be ready,” Broberg said.

Holloway could provide an injection of speed and vigorous forechecks to the back six at some point. It should be noted that in Game 2, five Oilers forwards played less than nine minutes.

For now, he’s soaking up the Battle of Alberta. Game 1 was his first time watching an NHL playoff game live. He called it a “pretty crazy experience”.

Playing any of the games would take things to the next level.

“I feel like I would be ready,” Holloway said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m just here to enjoy this experience.

“But if I had the chance to play, I would be really excited. It would be really cool to play in the Battle of Alberta.

(Photo by Dylan Holloway courtesy of Bakersfield Condors)

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