Alexander Holtz's Journey to New Jersey Devils Top Six

It's been a long and crazy year for New Jersey Devils young gun Alexander Holtz. After toiling on the bottom line for most of the year, Holtz now finds himself contributing on the team's top line.

New Jersey Devils v Dallas Stars
New Jersey Devils v Dallas Stars / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

In the 2020 NHL Draft, Alexander Holtz was the 7th overall pick. The Swedish forward is only 22 years old, one of the many young players on the Devils roster. This season, Holtz has played in 70 games, with 15 goals and 11 assists. 

With those numbers, you would expect a decent amount of playing time from Holtz, right? But this season, he is only averaging about 11:25 minutes per game. With Lindy Ruff as coach, the alarmingly low ice time was not a shock. Ruff continuously kept Holtz in the bottom six. When the young player made common mistakes on the ice, Ruff benched him.

In a game against the Montreal Canadiens, a large part of the game’s comeback was because of Holtz’s game. Holtz scored in the third period to tie the game, however, received no reward. He was given less ice time and only played two more shifts to finish the game. Fans were furious with Ruff and his attitude and treatment of the young player, making the Holtz/Ruff dynamic one of the biggest talking points among Devils fans in the media. 

Since Lindy Ruff has been relieved of his coaching duties, the NJ Devils have begun putting some more trust in Alexander Holtz. With Ruff gone and Travis Green as interim head coach, things have begun to change for the better. 

When asked about Holtz, IHC Green said, “He’s trying to play quicker, he’s trying to play better away from the puck, and he's trying to be stronger on pucks. When you see effort with a young player, I think it’s important to reward him.”

With every game played, Holtz is becoming more consistent. He is taking chances offensively and winning battles for the puck—things that the Devils need more of. In a recent game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Holtz played on the second line with superstars Jack Hughes and Erik Haula. Skating alongside Haula and Hughes, Holtz scored his 15th goal of the season. 

With Hughes, Holtz’s ability is able to shine. A combination of Hughes’ speed and decision making on the ice and Holtz’s shot accuracy and ability to make himself open were seen in the Penguins game. 

In a recent interview, Green explained that Holtz has been giving a “real honest effort and a harder effort to doing things that maybe he’s not great or comfortable with.”  As a young player, it is vital that Holtz is rewarded and praised for his abilities and work, but he is also able to take criticism and learn from his mistakes.

Playing less than 12 minutes per game is not what Holtz needs. For the majority of the season, his low ice time and bottom-six placement in the lineup have been tampering with his opportunity to show the skill that he very obviously has. At only 22 years old, Alex Holtz has a long hockey career ahead of him. In last night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, the Devils secured a much-needed win. Holtz played again on the right wing alongside Haula and Hughes, a spot where he has been performing well. 

The Devils take on the Senators Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the finale of their homestand. A win is a must, and seeing players like Holtz perform well is vital at this point in the season.