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New Jersey Devils' Alexander Holtz Ends Tough Season With World Championship Cut – Hockey Writers –

Alexander Holtz, the New Jersey Devils' former seventh pick (2020), has struggled to find his place in the league. For the first time in his career, he was finally able to step into a full-time NHL role – one of only five Devils to skate through all 82 games in 2023-24.

Unfortunately, that sounds bigger than it really is. While Holtz scored 16 goals, he accumulated just 28 points to go along with a minus-15 average. Advanced metrics don't do him very well either, as his 47.95 expected goals percentage (xGF%) is the third worst among all regular players, behind Nathan Bastian and Brendan Smith (via Natural Stat Trick). Opponents had 21 more dangerous chances than the Devils had when Holtz was on the ice.

Alex Holtz, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/Hockey Writers)

His lack of defensive responsibility led to a paltry 11:38 of average ice time — and a few more pucks. In the exit interviews, Holtz expressed how “hopeful” he was to get a chance to play for Team Sweden at the upcoming IIHF World Championship. His wish came true in part, as he got the chance to attend their training camp. But after failing to record a point in two pre-tournament games, he was left out of their final lineup, thus ending a frustrating season. Instead, they chose two non-NHL players currently playing in Europe: 29-year-old Jesper Froden (ZSC Lions) and 18-year-old Felix Unger Sorum (Leksands IF).

Holtz's Year of Struggle

There has been much debate about whether or not Holtz was used properly. But what Sweden chose to do highlights the fact that it could be more The Holtz problem there is a training issue.

Over the past few months, Lindy Ruff and Travis Green have both taken similar approaches in their treatment of Holtz, insisting that he needs to be a complete player in order to receive increased ice time. Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald wasn't specific in his assessment:

“If Holtz changes as a player, that will change his ice time…He didn't have a good year. I don't believe it because he has been in the fourth row. The basic values ​​you have as a player – solid on the walls, puck play, puck management, do you turn pucks over, can you be better in certain situations … those areas have to be better. Not only for him, but also for many players.”

General manager Tom Fitzgerald

Related: Where the Search for Devil's Training Stands

Now, with Holtz leaving the World, that makes Swedish coach Sam Hallam the fourth high-level official to criticize his game…and that's only in the last few months. That is well said. You certainly have to feel for Holtz, who is only 22 years old. On the way out, he said, “(Becoming a 200-yarder) will be one of the main focuses (of the offseason). We're going to work on my whole game…it's been a little frustrating. You want to play as much as possible. But I think it adds motivation and my goal is to come back stronger.”

This is not to say that Holtz will never have a successful NHL career, or that the Devils' best option is to move on from him. There have been inklings and flashes of consistency, but his game hasn't been good enough to carry him long term. That doesn't mean it won't change.

One of the concerns fans seem to have with Holtz's management is that the discipline placed upon him has not been extended to the rest of the team going forward. That's a perfectly fair assessment, in my opinion. Although Holtz didn't make it to his 200-meter game, there were various times when other players made similarly bad turnovers, lost important puck battles, or failed to clear the zone. Those players were often benched or disciplined like Holtz.

Still, Holtz is coming off an important season with the Devils. It's hard to see where you're really getting into. With the talent there but nothing else, it can go in many different directions. He can be the NHL's top scorer with 25 goals next season or the American Hockey League's (AHL) top six player for the entire season.

As every season has been, this one feels like a big one for Holtz. If this upcoming season is not successful, it may force the Devils' hand to move on. Right now, it doesn't seem like his trade value is too high – so it might not make sense to check that this time of year. But maybe in the end moving on (a la Pavel Zacha) is what's best for both sides. Time will tell.

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