With their first pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, the New Jersey Devils selected right winger Alexander Holtz of Djurgårdens IF at seventh overall. According to his profile at Elite Prospects, he is listed at 6’0”, weighed at 183 pounds, and is currently playing with the main team in the SHL - where he is signed through 2021-22.
My initial reaction is that I like but I am not in love with it.
The way the actual 2020 NHL Draft broke down after third overall had Lucas Raymond, Jake Sanderson, and Jamie Drysdale taken in that order. This meant the Devils had their choice of Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, Holtz, Yaroslav Askarov, and Jack Quinn. Of this group, my preference was Rossi, Perfetti, or Holtz - in that order. However, I was concerned that the team would go off the board to either take a huge risk in goaltender Askarov or reach for the high-scoring winger of the Ottawa ‘67s. To that end, I appreciate that Tom Fitzgerald and Paul Castron did not over think this and took one of the three most offensively talented forwards available. What I do not like is whether we will be continuing to question Holtz over Rossi or Perfetti in the future like many still do with Pavel Zacha over Zach Werenski, Ivan Provorov, Timo Meier, Mikko Ratanen, or Mat Barzal.
That being said, I like this pick a whole lot more than the Zacha pick back in 2015. In many ways, this pick makes a lot of sense for the New Jersey Devils. They are short in the system on great-shooting forwards who could be finishers at the next level. Especially at wing. That is what Holtz projects out to be. Holtz fills in a need in the prospect pool, more so than a need on the main team. He arguably has the best shot and release in the entire draft class. Whether or not Kyle Palmieri will be extended or if someone else emerges in the meantime, the Devils have their future “sniper” at right wing. Holtz is someone that could absolutely flourish alongside Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes. Given how lackluster the Devils’ production has been as a team for the better part of the last 20 years, Holtz could be part of the solution to that constant issue.
Alex wrote this prospect profile and he noted that beyond the shot, Holtz is a very smart player, his passing skills are a bit underrated given how his shot is so attractive, and he is not a ghost without the puck. While some like Will Scouch question his shot selection, even Scouch stated that if there was anyone he wants firing away - it’s Holtz. That speaks to how good his shot actually is. I would like to think getting Holtz to get closer to the net is teachable as he gets a bit more pro experience. While his acceleration needs some work, he will have some time to work on that before he comes to North America. Given that his season has already started and he is signed through next season, he will be 21 by 2022-23. By then, he could be even more of a force and likely to step into the NHL instead of requiring further seasoning. That is a long way out, but it is possible. It is someone to be excited for. And it should not come as a surprise. In a plurality in mock drafts, Holtz ended up being the most common selection for New Jersey at seventh. By no means was this pick out of the realm of possibility.
While he is not my main choice, I am happy the Devils addressed a need in their system and picked an offensive forward with lots of potential who could be excellent for the team down the road. While I would have preferred Rossi or Perfetti, I like this pick.
In terms other opinions and profiles on Holtz, here is a short selection:
- It is from April, but Ben Kerr at Last Word on Sports noted in his profile that his skating and defensive play needs refinement, but that you cannot teach that shot or scoring ability.
- Over at Hockey Wilderness, KyleHattrick has this profile where he concludes that Holtz is primed to score a lot of goals at the next level. He is more positive about the defensive game and notes that the issues with his skating could be nitpicking.
- The profile at Silver Seven on Holtz by Ary M is well supported by data and takes throughout the year. Holtz has been a rising force in the Djurgårdens IF system. The profile also notes that at the SHL level, Holtz could stand to put in more effort on the backcheck. But the profile also noted how great he was at transitioning play forward and also came to the same conclusion with respect to Scouch. Yes, he may shoot the puck from unideal places but if you can teach him to get in five or ten feet closer for shots, he goes from dangerous to frightening to play against. The conclusion was that he would be a fine pick for Ottawa.
- From March at Habs Eyes on the Prize, Patrik Bexall and Anton Rasegård had this great profile on Holtz. It even cites Byron Baden’s tableau for point projection, pointing out how Holtz’ production has been comparable with Filip Zadina and Cole Caufield - two similar “sniper” prospects. Their concerns are similar from other profiles, and similar to those other profiles, they also conclude that it can all be worked out. Which is a positive for the future.
Ultimately, a lot of what you will read that was written about Holtz will be about the same. It is mostly positive with tons of praise about his shot and how he could be a real goal scorer at the next level. While nothing is guaranteed, when a lot of different people come to a similar conclusion, I am inclined to think there is merit to it. Who would not want this kind of prospect in their system? Goal scoring is at a premium. Forwards who can produce a lot tend to get expensive and highly sought-after because of it. The cheapest way to get those players is to draft them. While I like the total packages of Rossi and Perfetti more than Holtz - who both somehow fell past Buffalo for some reason I cannot understand - this is not a big downgrade or a big miss by the Devils. They get a player their pool does not have that could help them tremendously. It is a very fine pick even if it is not my most preferred pick.
If you want more encouragement, then consider that their recent picks out of Sweden have been quite good good. Jesper Bratt was a massive find. Jesper Boqvist is already a pro in North America and received NHL time already. He will be battling for more from next season onward. Fabian Zetterlund is a pro in the AHL and could become a call up in 2020-21. There is a little more hope in Nikola Pasic having a pro career compared with most seventh round picks since he has received some (short) appearances in the SHL this season. It is not a long list, but there is some reason to have some faith in the Devils’ scouts in Sweden.
For those who have not seen Holtz play, I suggest these videos to get more familiar with him. There are a lot of highlights to enjoy. Do note that the middle two come with commentary by Yannic St-Pierre (Draft Dynasty) and Will Scouch (Scouching):
But now you know my take on him, I want to know what you think. What do you think about the Devils taking Alexander Holtz at seventh overall? Please let me know in the comments and vote in our poll. Thank you for reading.
The Devils drafted Alexander Holtz at 7th Overall. What do you think of the pick?
This poll is closed
I love it!
I like the pick.
I don’t know / I’m in the middle.
I don’t like the pick.
I hate it!