Although I usually don’t make a whole lot of arguments about players in hockey enough, I believe now is the perfect time to chime in for a good debate. One of the first things I noticed in Patrik Laine’s game when he was first drafted was that he was more mobile than past wingers who are snipers in his age group, but Laine’s foot speed and his problem becoming invisible is a bit of a problem for a team like the Jets. If Laine were to up his skating game to be a better transitional forward and get more open, I believe he can get 5-10 points added to his season totals. No doubt in my mind Laine is an amazing shooter and a great offensive threat, but he’s a bit slow and needs to improve that part of his game to keep up with the tempo of the game.
Although the New Jersey Devils selected Alexander Holtz in the 2020 Draft, I tend to like him a lot more than Laine. What caught my eye was Holtz’s shot and his ability to skate smoothly in and out of the offensive zone. Anytime he was playing internationally with Lucas Raymond, he seemed to mimic the playmaking ability when Alex knew he had the open passing lane.
What I really liked a lot more in Holtz’s ability is to not only be flee-to-foot, but having that dimension in seizing the open space where the puck would end up. One of my favourite parts about Holtz’s mindset is the ability to learn how to become a two-way forward. The Devils, throughout their history, have been very successful in getting the majority of players to produce offensively from playing very solid defence.
Over Jack Hughes’ NHL Draft season last year, he had Montreal Canadiens draftee Cole Caufield on his flank. Every time they were connected, it was money in the bank. No way in hell GM Marc Bergevin is trading Caufield to New Jersey with Tom Fitzgerald as the GM, who has been very shrewd in previous trades.
Having Alexander Holtz heading over to the New Jersey Devils to possibly play with Hughes will bring out the best of both players respectively. I realistically forecast Yegor Sharangovich-Jack Hughes and Alexander Holtz on the second line. Sharangovich, the Belarusian forward, can play interchangeably, depending on what coach Ruff likes in his game.
I believe the big body of Sherangovich, who not only can play center, but is a viable left wing, can swap spots when it comes to the face-off circle. Sherangovich can play a mix of a power forward game like he did with Binghamton (AHL) and Dinamo Minsk (KHL) as a sniper, which would make it really hard to beat Jack Hughes and Alexander Holtz for the forseeable future. Holtz does have a similar shot to Filip Forsberg and Forsberg had a benchmark first full season with the Predators, scoring 26 goals and 63 points. Laine, in his first full season with Winnipeg, had 36 goals and 64 points at the NHL level as a rookie winger.
Do I think it’s out of reach for a guy like Holtz to reach 60-65 points in his rookie season? no. When you have a coach like Lindy Ruff and Mark Recchi on the coaching staff, you’re bound to learn a lot in your first couple of seasons. I do believe near and long-term with the way the New Jersey Devils were constructed from the past Shero-Castron era to the Fitzgerald-Castron era that the New Jersey Devils are on an upward trend.
With a guy like Alex Holtz and fellow prospect Dawson Mercer, who plays physically along the boards like Patrice Bergeron and shoots similarly to a young Michael Ryder from his early days, I can see the two being the key cogs over time, proving general manager Tom Fitzgerald right in having two very reliable young wingers locked up long-term, bringing endless value to the NHL franchise.
Sure, the Devils have been in past trade rumours looking to acquire Laine via trade, but I don’t think the value is there for a trade to be facilitated. This is why I stand by my case in my firm belief in the near and long-term trajectory of Patrik Laine vs. Alexander Holtz.