Despite news that the draft will be postponed, all clubs in the league still have their eyes on a select group of prospects that makes up the cream of the crop. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling some of those blue-chip players teams holding lottery tickets will be hoping to land.
When you see Alexander Holtz play, there is one thing that immediately comes to mind: He is a natural born scorer. But when it comes to his all-around potential, scouts and analysts seem to differ in opinion. This is the scouting report of Alexander Holtz — one of the most divisive top prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.
Birthplace: Saltsjö-Boo, Sweden
Date of birth: January 23, 2002
Weight: 183 lbs.
Team: Djurgårdens IF
Being an early bloomer, Swedish newspapers and hockey sites have had their eyes set on Holtz for years. There are articles where he talks about his future goals when he was a slight 14-year-old. His strength and high-performance coach, Andreas Öhgren, told Swedish site Hockeynews that Holtz has been immensely motivated to get to the NHL since the two of them met for the first time half a decade ago.
There appears to be nothing wrong with the mental aspect. However, to become a great NHLer you must have an elite skill-set as well, and this is where opinions on Holtz start to differ, depending on who you talk to.
Holtz is a polarizing prospect. There are analysts who call him a one-trick pony; a player who admittedly is a phenomenal shooter of the puck, but who has trouble creating on his own and who benefits heavily from being surrounded by skillful playmakers. It is an easily drawn conclusion. After all, scoring goals is what comes most naturally to young Holtz. But, is there a possibility that there is more to his game? Skills that become hidden to the naked eye because of his unquestionable ability to find the net? Let us look at his numbers and break down what we know as of today:
This season he ended up just one shy of tying the SHL junior scoring record, which is held by Vancouver Canucks legend Markus Näslund. In junior scoring, he slotted in as number four in his first season against grown men, surpassed only by three players who are two years his senior. An average of 0.46 PPG is not bad, considering a TOI of 12.53 per game. Out of his nine goals, three were game-winners and two were scored on the power play.
As can be seen above, Holtz has always scored a lot of goals, partly thanks to a lethal right-handed wrister. But Holtz is a player who can score from anywhere, be it through breakaways or up close on the rebound or with a dangler. The important thing for Alexander is that the puck finds its way into the net, not how it is done.
In an excellent YouTube series — where aforementioned site Hockeynews follows Holtz and fellow 2020 prospect Lucas Raymond — Holtz says that although he’s had Alex Ovechkin as a role model, he feels closer to Steven Stamkos when it comes to playing style.
So, is Holtz, in fact, a one-trick pony? I do not think he is. This year Holtz got to use more of his tools than just a great shot and the ability to find open ice to use it. As the season progressed, he demonstrated good usage of his hands and a better vision than he gets credit for.
I think his hands and vision get less credit because he is always compared to Raymond in every aspect of his game. Raymond and Holtz have played together on various Swedish national teams throughout their youth and frequently slotted into the same line together. Often, the same narrative has been chosen for reports, with Raymond playing the part of the ingenious playmaker and Holtz the lethal sniper. Once the narrative is set, it is hard to change it.
Is Holtz a complete player then, with all of these superlatives being thrown at him? Well if he was, he would obviously be in competition with Alexis Lafrenière for being the first player off the board come draft day, and that is not the case. Holtz does not possess elite acceleration and his skating is closer to average than most others being considered at the top of the draft. That does not mean he is slow on his skates, just that he does not wow you with sheer speed. Naturally, his skating can progress as he grows into his large frame, but as it stands now, Holtz makes up for his lack of elite-level skating with intelligent movement on the ice. Thanks to his great awareness, he has a tendency to find the puck before others simply by slotting into the right space at the right time.
His two-way game is another aspect he will need to improve to get to the next level. As of now, Holtz is at his best when he gets to focus on creating offense for his team. Then again, you don’t draft a player like Holtz to be a bottom-six 200-foot player who works the corners of the ice. He has been a consistent provider of forechecking on the J20-level though, something which could be translatable in the long run.
For now, his defence and forechecking need refinement against adult opponents. He will also need to learn to put in the everyday, monotonous workload of a full-time professional. “Alex needs to have a body that can be ready to play and excel every night, not every three or four days. I think he is two or three years away from being fully developed” says his head coach Robert Ohlsson in an exclusive interview with our own Patrik Bexell about the draft prospect’s season and future.
As I previously stated, Holtz carries a large frame for his age. He has a well-built, chiseled physique and can use it to win with physicality when needed. During the first day of last year’s pre-season testing, Holtz’s results were through the roof, according to coach Ohlsson. This combined with his skills on the ice made it impossible to keep him in the juniors for the 2019-20 season.
Future Considerations: #5
Hockey Prospect: #9
ISS Hockey: #9
McKeen’s Hockey: #5
NHL Central Scouting: #3 (EU skaters)
As a recently-turned 18-year-old playing his first season in a major league, Holtz has already made a name for himself. Håkan Andersson, area scout for the Detroit Red Wings, stated in an interview that Holtz and fellow draftee Raymond seem to be slightly underrated by NHL analysts simply because they play in the mens’ league and, therefore, do not put up as many breathtaking numbers as top prospects in the CHL. According to him, there is no limit to the production Holtz could have produced with opponents of his own age and maturity.
If the Ottawa Senators manage to lose the draft lottery with both of their top-10 picks, I could definitely see a possibility where they choose to select two Swedish wingers who have already demonstrated a true connection as teammates on the national level.
In any case, there will be teams early in the draft who are beyond smitten by Holtz’s pure goal-scoring ability come draft day. They will believe that him already putting up solid figures in a major league is a sign that he is willing to learn and adapt to the bigger challenges that lie before him. Even if there are question marks surrounding his game, it would be surprising to see Alexander Holtz being selected outside of the top ten.
You can listen to a longer interview with Holtz’s coach, Robert Ohlsson, about his coaching philosophy and development of young players here: