Sky’s the limit for rookie defenceman
Nicholas Holomego is a diamond in the rough.
The 16-year-old defenceman for the Fort Erie Meteors has limited junior experience but has already displayed enough natural talent to show he has the makings of a top prospect.
“You can tell watching him. He’s young, but he’s exciting,” Meteors assistant coach Anthony Passero said. “He flies around the ice and does things really well but he still makes mistakes that young guys make.
“He hasn’t played enough games at this level so he’s still getting his feet wet but he’s explosive, he’s big, he’s got a good stick, a good shot. He’s definitely an asset for us and he definitely can play at the next level.”
Holomego, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, was selected in the fifth round (85th overall) of the 2022 OHL draft by the Erie Otters and recommended to Fort Erie by Otters director of player development and former Meteor Ryan Berard.
Holomego played in six pre-season games with the Otters and then joined the Meteors where his junior B debut was held up due to paperwork issues from his hometown Thunder Bay Minor Hockey Association.
After about a month on the sidelines, Holomego finally made his Meteors debut Sept. 29 in Hamilton where he played one shift and injured his knee which kept him out of the lineup another couple of weeks.
“The boys were winning. It kind of sucked not playing and I couldn’t practice either,” Holomego said. “I wasn’t with the guys too much but once I got back I felt better.”
Holomego also missed some time when he was called up by the Otters for four games in November, where by all accounts he accorded himself well.
“It was huge,” Holomego said of his time in the OHL. “It was a pretty cool honour for them to have the confidence in me to call me up. I just have to keep working hard.
“Playing in pre-season was a good eye opener to see what I was getting myself into. It’s a huge jump but I feel like I did pretty well adapting to it.”
Otters assistant coach Wes Wolfe was effusive in his praise of Holomego.
“We have a strong belief that Nic is going to develop into an anchor for our blueline for years to come,” Wolfe said. “He has shown a ton of promise in the games he played during the pre-season and in a brief call-up last month. At his size, he can use his length and reach to kill plays in the neutral zone and close quickly in the defensive zone, but I think what has impressed me the most is his development with the puck. He has shown a new confidence in making plays on breakouts and in transition that will help him as he eventually grows into a full-time role with the Otters.
“Playing against older competition for the first time has been a valuable experience for Nic as he learns to defend hard and be comfortable getting engaged physically with them in battles and at net front. (Fort Erie head coach) Nik (Passero) and his staff are doing a great job working with Nic and our organization in assisting with his development plan.”
Despite his stature, Holomego isn’t an enforcer just yet, but that isn’t an issue as far as Anthony Passero is concerned.
“He doesn’t play mean, but he’s not shy. He’s involved every shift. He can take the puck from one end to the other,” Anthony Passero said. “Just because he’s big it doesn’t mean he has that instinct every shift. I’d rather him be extremely hard to play against than have people fear him. The fear is almost leaving hockey. You want the right-winger to look up at him and know he’s going to get a slash on his hands and get hit when he has the puck.”
Holomego said he has always filled the same role since his days in minor hockey.
“Growing up I was always that big defenceman who grinds in front of the net so I always had that in my game to be the big, tough guy,” he said.
Holomego, who is attending Greater Fort Erie Secondary School, is enjoying his time on and off the ice in Fort Erie.
“Obviously it’s is a huge jump playing against older guys here and guys who are faster, bigger and stronger. It’s hard to adjust to but I’m starting to get used to it. I feel it’s going pretty well,” he said. “I’m having lots of fun. It’s an amazing organization and team. The guys have been amazing so far.”
The Meteors, who sit in third place with a 19-6-3 mark, are in St. Catharines Friday for a showdown with the first-place Falcons. St. Catharines have won the all three meetings this season, each by one goal.
“I don’t think we have to put the emphasis on the game, the players do and they already have,” Nik Passero said. “Friday is an important game, 100 per cent, and everyone knows it.
“We need to get over that hump and cross the finish line. In seven games against the two teams ahead of us, six of them have been one-goal games.”
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