The New Jersey Devils were lucky to get the number-two overall pick in the NHL Draft. Many say the team could make the pick available in a trade, but would it be better to dangle Swedish winger Alexander Holtz instead?
Hockey is a rough sport. There are trades, buyouts, and firings. Many leave organizations with a worse taste in their mouths than they came in. It doesn’t always have to be that way, but we always have to prepare for that. You know how the saying goes; “prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. So, what does this have to do with the New Jersey Devils?
The Devils were lucky enough to win the second-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. There is no clear second player in this draft like there was with Quinton Byfield in 2020 or Jack Eichel in 2015. This year, the Devils have the choice of Logan Cooley, Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec, and David Jiricek with the pick (with some outlier choices also under consideration). The overwhelming favorite right now is Slafkovsky.
He’s done really well in international competition, which includes the Olympics where the most possible eyes were on him. Slafkovsky is now tearing it up at the IIHF World Championships, where he has three points in four games for Slovakia. His skating stands out amongst his peers, and he is someone who will keep getting better as the years come on.
Slafkovsky brings size and skill at the same time. That’s important here because the Devils are desperate for size and grit in the lineup that has oodles of skill. Putting someone on Jack Hughes‘ or Nico Hischier‘s line that can match their skill but also use size to their advantage might be a missing piece for this forward group.
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Another player who’s considered a “missing piece” because of his finishing ability is Alexander Holtz. The Swedish winger was phenomenal in the AHL, scoring 26 goals and recording 51 points in 52 games. It’s his first full season on North American ice, so seeing him adapt to the sheet was great to see.
However, Holtz struggled mightily when he was in the NHL. He had zero goals in nine games. He looked out of place in Lindy Ruff‘s system, and he desperately needed direction. It was two bad tryouts for the 20-year-old. It’s way too early to actually worry about him, but is it too early to wonder about his value?
Holtz is still insanely valuable on the open market. There’s good reason for that. If everything works out, Holtz can be a 40-goal scorer. Getting there is another story, but for now, that ceiling still exists. The Devils want players who can help them now. We’re not 100% sure that Holtz is there. He actually saw himself lose a little luster in the AHL, and he’s not even on the top line in the postseason for the Utica Comets.
Let’s make this clear, we are not worried about the progression of Holtz. Overall, he did exactly what he needed to do this year. He got used to living in America and started to ascend to a professional style of play. It’s not crazy to ask whether the Devils might be smarter to dangle Holtz in a trade over the second-overall pick.
Both Holtz and Slafkovsky are all upside plays. They can both be insane scorers with size (although Slaf is a lot bigger). The Devils would be better served to keep both of them and let them both grow into NHL players. However, if a team is looking for this level of an asset in return for an NHL star, the Devils have to think about what’s best for them in the long run. Is it better to have a top line with Holtz on it, or would Slafkovsky work out better?