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Alexander Holtz is Devilishly Good

Alexander Holtz has made his mark in the AHL, especially in recent months. The New Jersey Devils have a special prospect on its hands, and he's only going to get better.
Alexander Holtz

During the 2019-20 season, anyone who followed the prospects eligible for the NHL draft knew about the two-headed monster that was the Swedish “Terror Twins”, Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz. 

With Raymond impressing for the Detroit Red Wings and among the league leaders in rookie scoring this season, Holtz's time in the spotlight isn't too far away.

He began his first full season in North America with a torrid start. He recorded five goals in his first four AHL games. While that pace was unsustainable, the goal-scoring prowess that he was drafted for was showing itself right away. This hot start was enough to entice the Devils to call him up to the big club.

The Devils’ 2020 seventh-overall pick was given a stint in the NHL in November where he recorded two assists in six games with the big club after a great start in the AHL. He seemed competent at the NHL level but Holtz isn’t supposed to be a “competent” player. 

He's supposed to be a star. At the end of the day, he was still not quite ready for a full-time role so he was sent back to the AHL to work on rounding out his game to become more impactful.

Upon his return to the AHL, Holtz was a bit slow to take off with only one goal in his seven games with the Utica Comets before being released to play for Sweden at the World Juniors. Albeit brief because of an early COVID shutdown, Holtz looked like himself at the annual U-20 event. Returning to the AHL after a one-game NHL cup of coffee post World Juniors, Holtz began to take off with Utica. The Swedish sniper collected 16 goals in the 26 games that followed, and now sits at 43 points in 42 games.

There was never a question as to whether Holtz had a good shot. When you look back at scouting reports of him prior to his draft, his shot was the key selling point in his game. Holtz was the premier sniper of the 2020 draft class.

Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News had this to say: “Holtz is a wicked shooter with a projectable frame and has the potential to be a real difference-maker on the power play.”

So what was behind Holtz finding the back of the net more consistently in the second half of the season? Shot location.

Holtz Shot Locations

Here's my own scouting report prior to the 2020 draft: “He’s been able to score a ton of goals from distance but what will truly unlock his potential in the NHL will be getting closer to the blue paint before firing those shots.”

The maturing process for most snipers often involves finding a way to attack the high danger areas of the ice more consistently, something we can see in Holtz. The Devils’ top forward prospect has excelled more as he’s focused on releasing his ridiculous shot from a higher percentage area.

This has also opened up Holtz’s underrated playmaking ability as well. He doesn’t always identify his teammates in good scoring positions, an area that still needs to be worked on by the young forward, but he does display the requisite skill to make passes that are a higher difficulty than expected out of a player known more for his goal-scoring exploits.

The thought of having a goal scorer of Holtz caliber lining up next a playmaker like Jack Hughes is alluring. Holtz possesses the capacity to produce at an elite level as a goal scorer because of his wicked release. He has excellent off-puck movement in the offensive zone, finding pockets to open himself up to passes. On the power play, he is an absolute menace and should be for a decade or more.

The biggest factor, as with many goal scorers who have thrived picking corners from distance, will be his willingness to attack the middle of the ice and push into the high danger areas. His willingness to continue to find ice closer to the blue paint will determine whether he is a perimeter shooter who can reach the 30-goal plateau a few times in his career or whether he can challenge 40 regularly and eye up the competition in a Rocket Richard race.

The devil is in the details. 

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