Over the past 9 years when Sweden had a young forward drafted by the Ottawa Senators, Mika Zibanejad. The 6’2” forward was not really known to be much of goal scoring espresso machine type guy. Zibanejad came up to the NHL in his D2 season (2nd season after being drafted).
As seen in Alexander Holtz’s D1 season versus Mika’s D1 season, Holtz put up similar progress to a superstar producer that Zibanejad turned out to be on Broadway at Madison Square Garden with the Rangers. The development curve for Alexander Holtz has been more steady building up his muscle mass to be stronger on the puck and have a similar build to his fellow countryman Zibenejad.
If the stars are properly aligning in New Jersey with Holtz looking to have a breakout season he can be that Zibanejad, Laine, Filip Forsberg type guy that sticks long term. The offensive production and skill spread across the New Jersey Devils lineup will make it a lot harder for teams to defend.
Mika Zibanejad in his first four 42-plus game seasons in Ottawa (2012-2016): 64 Goals and 150 points 37.5 points per season average. If the first 42-plus game four seasons for Holtz, he can hit along those benchmarks and average 16 plus goals then he’s on a similar path to Zibenejad.
One of the aspects of Holtz’s game has been more refined his muscle mass and his puck carrying. I saw Alexander skate just fine versus Florida when the New Jersey Devils lit up Spencer Knight early in the season. A conundrum I spotted was that Alex did not look a bit lost defensively when looking to shut down passing, and skating lanes. This was also a problem Ovechkin had in his early seasons adapting to the North American ice plus NHL pace.
If Andrew Brunette and head coach Lindy Ruff can keep Holtz moving on the right path his offensive abilities are all there. It’s only a matter of when he starts to take off being with the right playmaking center in NJ. Zibanejad in NY is the center and sometimes plays wing but behaves like a winger going in for high-danger chances. Brunette will play a big role in developing Holtz into that super dynamic even strength, and overall sniper the Devils had with Ilya Kovalchuk.
Depth, Leadership, and Potential:
Sticking with the Swedish theme Jesper Boqvist is a guy who is finding his offensive niche in the red and black. Looking back at Boqvist’s numbers from last season at an 82-game pace the law of average from 2021-22 is projecting a 34-point season. Having Boqvist play a 34-point game season will show how deep the Devils lineup can be from 1-4 lines. He has the potential to play 2nd and 3rd line minutes and has room for growth. If Boqvist and Holtz can find that chemistry together they can provide that Swedish connection to be pretty lethal.
The offensive creativity that both Lindy Ruff and Brunette will allow guys like Boqvist, Holtz, and others to play with veterans like Ondrej Palat. New Jersey has a run-and-gun style of offensive attacks while the defense will play more physically and properly balanced. That kind of mix with McGill as the defensive coach adds his experience from his successful run in Las Vegas.
Puck possession and defensive play should increase to a more respectable top 16 in the NHL while becoming very stingy again on defense and the penalty kill. Vanecek and Blackwood keeping healthy and denying 0.900 SV% and up will increase the odds of taking back a top 4 spot in the ever-shifting “division of death” known as The Metropolitan Division.