MONTREAL, QC. — At first glance, the Montreal Canadiens seemed to have made a depth move for their AHL team, the St. John’s IceCaps, when they announced the signing of George “Bud” Holloway for one year on a two-way contract. If you take a deeper look into his resume and his skillset, he might actually be a darkhorse to make the Montreal Canadiens, and here’s why.
Who is Bud Holloway?
A Wapella, Saskatchewan-native, Bud Holloway played his junior hockey in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds where he played four full seasons. In his last year of junior hockey, Holloway led his team in scoring with 43 goals, 40 assists for 83 points. He ranked second in goal-scoring in the league, tied with Buffalo Sabres’ Tyler Ennis and one more than Edmonton Oilers’ Jordan Eberle.
At 27 years old, Holloway, a former third round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, has spent his last four seasons in Europe. In the Swedish Elite League, a league that is recognized for it’s defensive and hermetic style of play, Bud Holloway led his team Skelleftea AIK in points in three straight seasons from 2011 to 2014. In this time span, he has led his team to two SEL championships.
As mentioned in my previous article about training camp storylines, the Canadian left-winger has had a fantastic season in 2012-2013 where he led the SEL in points with 71. Second to him was now Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg, who had 60 points. Aside from Holloway’s linemate, Joakim Lindberg who had 54 points, no one else in the entire league cracked the 50 point mark.
Therefore, even if his name doesn’t exactly sound like an attractive European signing, Holloway is coming in as a star player. He gave up his reputation in the prime of his career in Europe give his best shot at making the NHL.
What is his skillset and what can he bring to a team?
First of all, Holloway excels in both the offensive and the defensive zone. In Europe, he generally played both the power-play and the penalty-kill.
His skillset is pretty complete on the offensive side of the puck: he is a good skater, with decent size who can stickhandle with the best of them. He is an excellent play-maker that often “gift wraps” goals for his linemates. He has a quick release without having a very hard shot (think Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec.) He is all in all a very smart player on the ice and you definitely notice him when he’s on.
The only knock on him would be that he often tries to get past defensemen with dekes and I am skeptical as to whether that would work in the NHL.
Another positive point on Holloway is his leadership on and off the ice. Trying to not sound too cliché, Holloway always seems to be well-liked by his teammates and seems to have a very outgoing personality. He will, in my opinion, fit right in with the Habs’ current locker room.
How does he fit in the Habs’ lineup?
For a spot on the Habs lineup, he will have to fight for one in training camp. The Montreal Canadiens have multiple options for their starting lineup, especially with newly acquired forwards Alexander Semin and Zack Kassian. On thing that plays in his favor is the fact that he is a right-winger that can play all three forward position. The Habs aren’t particularily deep on natural wingers and Holloway will have a chance to fight for a spot on the bottom-6. I personally think that he fits in the style of play that the Habs want to deploy. He can definitely play on a third or fourth line and that plays in his favor.
With the lack of available spots on the starting roster, Holloway is going to have to outshine and outplay others in training camp and in pre-season to get a shot at sticking with the big club. His advantage on other rookies is that he already has professional experience, and is a proven winner. His two-way play, as previously said, will probably be a factor in his evaluation.
As for my prediction, I think that he makes a very subtle, but good impression on the coaching staff in training camp and he will either be the 13th forward or on the top line with the Ice Caps. He should at least see a handful of games with the Canadiens this season in a limited role.