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Fringe Oilers Broberg and Holloway fighting to grab bigger roles on contending team

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan McLeod (71), Dylan Holloway (55), Philip Broberg (86) and Tyson Barrie (22) celebrate a goal against the New York Islanders during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Thursday January 5, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson Edmonton Oilers' Ryan McLeod (71), Dylan Holloway (55), Philip Broberg (86) and Tyson Barrie (22) celebrate a goal against the New York Islanders during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Thursday January 5, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

If there is mounting pressure on the Oilers top draft picks from 2019 and 2020 to breakthrough in the NHL, they're not admitting it.

Both Phillip Broberg (eight overall) and Dylan Holloway (14th overall) have yet to become everyday Oilers, each spending time in the American Hockey League and the pressbox last season.

But with the team tight on cap space and in "win-now mode," Edmonton could benefit from one or both taking a leap forward.

"I don't see it as pressure. I see it as opportunity…I feel ready," Broberg told reporters at training camp in Edmonton Friday.

"I wouldn't say it's a pressure but it's definitely something that's a goal. I want to step up and help the team as much as I can," Holloway said.

Although Broberg is a year older than Holloway, he'll likely have a tougher time getting into the Oilers lineup because the team is returning six starting defencemen from last year's team.

The speedy forward – who scored three goals and added six assists in 51 games with Edmonton last year – knows there is playing time to be had as a bottom-six forward for the Oilers.

"I know our team is pretty stacked up front, but I'd just love to crack the team and have a good role this season, so that's what I'm focused on," Holloway said.

"I gotta limit turnovers, I gotta be good in the defensive zone, and kinda gain the coaches' trust. Once you do that you can kinda play a bit more free and try to make plays and get back to the player I was in college and junior."

Oilers GM Ken Holland said earlier this week he expects Holloway to make the team, while Broberg will get a lot of playing time in the preseason because Mattias Ekholm has a hip injury. What happens after that is up to them.

"We're trying to win. We're in this window of trying to win. We're trying to put the best team on the ice," he said.

"We're not going to put somebody on the ice because they have potential. The potential has to go to the American Hockey League."

Broberg pointed out that he is able to play on both the right and left sides of the ice. He trained hard in Sweden this year and said having fellow-countryman Ekholm is huge for him.

"He's helped me a lot since he came here and I try to learn from him every day," Broberg said of the NHL veteran 11 years his senior.

Ekholm was traded to Edmonton in February, helping partner Evan Bouchard have the best stretch of his young career, including 17 points in 12 playoff games.

"He's a big role model for everyone on this team. He's a really good leader too," Broberg said.

"He's such a nice guy. I got to sit next to him in the locker room so I've gotten to know him really well and he's been good for me and everybody else since he came to the team. Obviously, he's a big part of this team."

When asked if he was happy with how he's progressed in his professional career so far, the 22-year-old would only say he feels good now.

The Oilers' preseason starts Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets. The regular season starts Oct. 11 in Vancouver. Top Stories

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