Holmes at home with Canucks
What a difference a year has made for Owen Holmes.
The 17-year-old centre is off to a strong start with the Niagara Falls Canucks after finding playing time hard to come by as a rookie last season on a squad filled with veterans.
Holmes collected three goals in 47 games last season and had already equalled that total through nine games this year to go with four assists.
“Last year I had a role but it was a different role, obviously,” said Holmes, a Grade 12 student at A.N. Myer. “This year I feel better because I’m being relied on to get points and I like that pressure. It helps me play better because I like playing under pressure.”
Holmes said he worked overtime this summer with his older brother Hunter, a forward with the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League.
“I feel better this year. I worked on my game a lot this summer. I was on the ice basically every day with my brother (doing) extra power skating and skills.”
Canucks coach Frank Pietrangelo has noticed the difference just a month into the season.
“He’s a better player this year that last year, I can tell you that right now,” Pietrangelo said.
Pietrangelo kept Holmes last year with this season in mind.
“It’s a very tough league for 16-year-olds and we were loaded pretty deep up front,” he said. “It was tough to get him ice time. It wasn’t the ideal situation for him but I knew coming back this year things would be different for him. I told him that in the off-season. I told him I thought he was going to excel and things have started out pretty well.”
Even with limited ice time, Holmes feels he was able to use last season as a building block.
“It didn’t bother me that much, plus there were a lot of lessons to learn from those guys. It was a great experience last year.”
Pietrangelo has used Holmes in all situations so far — regular shift, power play and killing penalties.
“He’s doing a little bit of everything for us,” Pietrangelo said. “He has a great work ethic and sees the ice pretty well, that’s why we have him on both special teams, and he’s up the middle so we have confidence in his defensive part of the game.”
Pietrangelo feels Holmes will become even more productive around the net as his confidence grows.
“He’s a great skater. He’s not the biggest guy but he can really wheel out there. Sometimes his feet are moving faster than his hands and head are working. That causes him to have a lack of production around the net. Sometimes it’s better to take a step back and slow down and be a little bit more diligent under the net.
“It’s a matter of him having confidence around the net and that comes at different stages for different guys.”
Pietrangelo has high hopes Holmes will becoming a consistent, reliable scorer.
“Production is something you really can’t predict. If you measure ice time, he’s up there with our top forwards. Production differs from guy to guy. A lot of it comes from confidence. He’s only 17 and I’m hoping he’s a guy who can put up 25 goals this year.”
Holmes is happy with his start, but realizes there is a long way to go this year.
“I don’t want to get too excited about things. I just want to keep playing my game and see what happens.”
Holmes, an 11th round (202nd overall) selection by the Firebirds in 2018 OHL Priority Draft, went to OHL camp for the second time.
“It went well. They told me I played well. It’s unfortunate because they already had their guys pre-picked but it’s still good to go for the experience,” he said.
Holmes would still consider the OHL, but is leaving the door open for other options.
“It would be great but I’m looking more the school route now,” he said. “It leaves you better benefits for the player after hockey if I don’t get to the NHL.”
The Canucks are home to Fort Erie Friday and in Caledonia Saturday.
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