Sweet sixteen for Oilers true freshmen
Hockey: Holloway, Olson thriving as 2001 born skaters with AJHL’s top team
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017 06:00 am
You can pretty much throw out conventional wisdom on this one.
The Okotoks Oilers are making a habit of 16-year-old skaters defying the odds and taking the Alberta Junior Hockey League by storm as 2001 born forwards Dylan Holloway and Quinn Olson have quickly established themselves as top players on the elite team in the province.
“We’ve known those two kids for a while and know exactly what they can bring,” said Oilers head coach Tyler Deis. “Both players are pretty similar and also a little different. We’ve put them in good situations where they can succeed here and be confident with their games.
“We want to put kids in positive situations where they can feel comfortable so their talents and their game can shine through.”
The result is top-six roles and extensive special teams responsibilities for the dynamic duo.
Olson has played virtually all season alongside recent Harvard commit Austin Wong and Oilers leading scorer Kyle Gordon in what’s been Okotoks’ most consistent trio.
“It has been awesome,” Olson said. “Wong is that tough guy that gets in the corners and is a great puck mover and so is Gordon. We work really well together and are building that chemistry.”
Olson is at over a point-per-game in his rookie season with 7 goals and 17 points in 15 games.
“Coming in young I knew I was making the team as a bottom role player,” said Olson, a Calgary Buffaloes product. “Throughout the games we’ve played I’ve really stepped up my game and progressed through the lineup. I didn’t think I was going to be getting much ice or points, but they’re coming to me quite nice.
“A couple games in I started to feel comfortable, started to learn how to play against older guys.”
Holloway, a Bragg Creek native, has been nothing short of spectacular as a do everything centre, skating primarily with captain Carter Huber and alternate skipper Tanner Laderoute.
The University of Wisconsin commit has 15 points in 15 games with the green-and-gold.
“It has definitely been a change from midget and it’s a lot faster and a lot harder,” said Holloway. “I just feel like the coaches and the guys I’ve been playing with have helped me out a lot. Tanner is really speedy and that really helps on the wall and Hubs is really consistent.
“Coming in this year I wasn’t expecting a ton of ice-time, but it’s the way it has been happening so far and I’m really liking it.”
The 16-year-old has a strong foundation as an elite skater who chews up more ice than a combine at harvest.
“His individual skill is off the charts,” Deis said. “His skating is smooth, his edge work is unbelievable, but his skill work all around is fantastic.”
It’s the second straight season that a pair of 16-year-olds have made major impacts on the squad.
Defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker and Wong, both of whom now boasting NCAA scholarships, were terrific as rookies in 2016-17 and have further developed in year two.
“If you’re going to put kids in this level at that age you’ve got to make sure to set them up for success,” the coach added.
“There is no point in having them sit in or out of the lineup, you’ve got to make sure you mature them, nurture them.
“Between those four guys I’ve known those four for a long time and worked with them for years and years and know what type of player they are and the situations they can handle.”
The results don’t lie.
Okotoks’ best start in franchise history has the contributions of its nine rookies all over its fingerprints.
“This is the best team I’ve ever been on,” Holloway said. “All of the guys have been practicing hard, playing hard and we’re a great group of guys in the room and that’s translating on the ice.”