NEWARK – Leave it to Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien to put the pending NHL debut of “Bud” Holloway better than anyone around him asking questions about it could have.
“This is a great story,” he told ECHL.com with a big smile on Friday morning.
“The guy has showed a lot of resilience through his career to come back after playing a few years in Europe, and he did really well for our team in the American Hockey League in St. John’s. For him to get an opportunity to play his first game in the NHL, those are great stories and he certainly deserves to finally get a shot in the NHL because he’s had success wherever he goes.”
Holloway, 27, is set to play in his very first contest at the game’s highest level at the Prudential Center in Newark against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night. It will serve as the ultimate culmination of a long, winding road that seemingly started when he was drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Kings in 2006 and was still in its infancy when he joined the Ontario Reign midway through his first professional season.
“It was good,” Holloway recalled to ECHL.com about his time with Ontario in 2008-09.
“I wasn’t playing that much when I was in (Manchester), so I went there and got to play. I was logging big minutes, so I think it helped me get stronger and develop for coming back my second year.”
The six-foot, 200-pound winger was essentially a point-per-game player with the Reign – he tallied 14 goals and eight assists in 23 contests – and was particularly dazzling in the postseason, when he potted 14 points in just seven games.
His AHL numbers over the next two years were nearly as impressive – 108 points in 153 regular season games and 25 points over the course of 23 playoff contests – but there was a logjam at the time in the Kings organization, and he simply never got an opportunity in the NHL.
So Holloway took his talents to Europe.
“I think a lot of guys go when they’re older, and I went when I was quite young,” he said. “I did it the reverse. I went there and learned to play with a little more speed and skill on the big ice and opening everything up. It wasn’t giving up (on the NHL), I knew I was restricted for four years and couldn’t come back until then, so that’s part of why I stayed there the full four (years).”
An improved player, Holloway’s return to North America was met by many suitors; his production in both the AHL and ECHL was a sign of things to come during his four seasons spent in Sweden and Switzerland. Ultimately, he decided that the Canadiens would be the best fit.
“I think I felt like I developed pretty good while I was over in Europe, and coming back, I figured out where I wanted to be. When Montreal called, I felt like it was a great organization and a great spot to try. I was fortunate to do well in St. John’s and get a shot at a call-up.”
He earned that call-up by emerging as the St. John’s Ice Caps leading scorer by posting five goals and 15 assists in his first 18 games. It’s all led to his dreams coming true on Friday; his morning was spent sitting in a corner stall granting an interview in the visiting locker room, but his night will be spent on NHL ice.
“It’s happening,” he said. “It’s a pretty special feeling right now, and I’m just trying to enjoy every part of it. It’s been good, and I’m excited. There’s a little bit of relief, a little bit of nerves, a little bit of excitement. You name it, I’ve pretty much got it. It’s something you dream about doing, and I’m a little bit late (being) 27, but it’s better than never. I’m going to enjoy it.”