Alexander Holtz may not have gotten off to the start that he was hoping for early in his NHL career. However, there is still hope of tapping into the young forward’s potential in his make-or-brake 2023-24 season.
Selected 7th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, he’s now in the third and final year of his entry-level contract. Apart from the general optimism one has for a top-10 draft choice, Alexander Holtz has done little to encourage his promotion in the Devils’ lineup.
Through 34 career NHL games, the highly-touted shooter has recorded just 4 goals and 4 assists. The majority of his time in North America has been spent playing for New Jersey’s minor league affiliate, the Utica Comets, where he’s totaled 33 goals and 32 assists in 76 games played.
The New Jersey Devils need to unlock the potential of Alexander Holtz.
While his numbers in the AHL loosely support the promise coaches and scouts saw in him as a prospect, Holtz (who is set to turn 23 this January) is at a pivotal stage in his hockey career. The 2023-24 NHL season is his last chance to prove to the front office why he was worthy of being a top-10 pick in the draft.
To unlock Alexander Holtz’s potential, the New Jersey Devils need to take a page out of the book from their bitter rival across the Hudson River and look at what the New York Rangers have done with Finnish forward, Kaapo Kakko.
Much like Holtz, Kaapo Kakko was a top pick in the draft who showcased great skill in Europe, playing against men as a 17-year-old. He made his NHL debut having seldom played on North American ice (which is notably shorter in width compared to European ice).
Summarily, the speed and intensity of the NHL became overwhelming for Kakko and his stock dropped expeditiously due to his struggles to keep up with the pace of the game.
The Rangers assessed their options and decided that while Kaapo Kakko may never live up to the potential of a No. 2 overall draft pick, there was still a way to obtain legitimate value from the young forward.
Working in his favor, as in Holtz’s, was his solidly built frame. Because of this, New York transitioned him from a skilled player into becoming a power forward.
Since this transition, Kaapo Kakko has earned a permanent role in the Rangers’ offense and now serves as an example of how the New Jersey Devils can work with Alexander Holtz to find his role in North America.
Given his raw size of 6’0″ – 200 lbs, Holtz can physically adapt to a more net-front presence as he still has considerable room to pack on more muscle.
Moreover, nodding to his touch as a natural goal-scorer, transitioning to a net-front guy will open the door for expanded opportunities in ‘Jersey’s deep lineup, particularly on the power play.
The Devils have some of the fastest and most skilled forwards in today’s game, but a big piece missing from their game is having a strong, top-six forward in front of the net who can tip in a shot from the point, or corral a loose puck and find the back of the net in tight.
Apart from his one teammate, Timo Meier, this presence is practically non-existent on the Devs roster. Thus, there is a position waiting to be claimed by Holtz.
Though this transition is by no means guaranteed, as young forwards from the Swedish pro league, the SHL, typically play a more finesse style of hockey, it’s a promising path that may unlock Alexander Holtz’s potential in the 2023-24 NHL season.
If for nothing else, it will encourage general manager Tom Fitzgerald to offer him his first real NHL contract in the offseason.