The Anaheim Ducks are one of seven teams whose seasons have officially ended, and as of now, we have no idea when we’ll see them hit the ice next. Although we won’t be able to watch them play, there is one thing we can do — speculate about who the Ducks will select at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Before the season was suspended, they had the fifth-overall pick, but the NHL Draft Lottery will determine their first-round pick. Either way, they will have a strong group of prospects to choose from. One player who’s name could still be on the board is Swedish sniper Alexander Holtz.
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If you ask most Ducks fans, Holtz is the favorite among possible targets, likely because the team hasn’t drafted a pure sniper since Bobby Ryan. Our prospect experts ranked him in the top ten, ninth on Josh Bell’s Final 155 Rankings and sixth on Larry Fisher’s Final Top 500. The Ducks desperately need a pure goal scorer, and it would be hard to pass up on one as dynamic as Holtz.
Holtz Is 2020’s Top Sniper
There’s one every year, and the player labeled the draft’s best sniper always gets extra attention. Holtz has been at the top of the list for a while. He scores goals for fun, and has proven himself time and again. In 2018-19, he led the J20 league in scoring with 30 goals in 38 games playing for Djurgårdens IF. This season, he was promoted to the Swedish Hockey League, where he posted nine goals and 16 points in 35 games. He also performed well on the international stage with three goals and five points in seven games at the World Junior Championship.
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Holtz’s production as a 17-year old in the SHL is almost unparalleled. In the last 30 years, only two players have scored at a higher rate: Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund. That’s some good company to keep. The idea of a Trevor Zegras/Holtz duo for the next decade might be too good to pass up for the Ducks on draft day.
Holtz has everything you look for in a top-line winger. He has above-average speed and acceleration, high hockey IQ, soft hands, and an elite NHL-ready shot which is the hallmark of his game. The first thing everyone mentions about Holtz is his natural ability to score goals. He has tremendous power behind his shot and with a quick, deceptive release, he has the ability to beat goaltenders from anywhere. Although not utilized as much, he’s effective on the one-timer thanks to a heavy and accurate slap shot. He’s got great hands and can finish in tight on the backhand. He’s got all the tools to score goals in the NHL.
Steve Kournianos from The Draft Analyst described Holtz’s goal-scoring ability in his draft profile:
The puck explodes off his blade, and the high velocity generated by each attempt pays tribute to the mechanics of his delivery. Unlike the average teenage player, Holtz seems to be able to mask his intended net target by hitting the upper corners with the puck positioned in different areas of his blade. Shots from static positions and off the rush are difficult for goalies to control, and a good chunk of his assists — primary or secondary — are generated from rebounds. He appears to prefer the wrister over the slap shot, which is understandable considering his release.
Holtz’s vision and playmaking ability are underrated. While he’s not the best in the draft, he’s got the skill to create plays and find open teammates. Defensively, he could use some work, but by no means is he a liability in his own zone. His work ethic isn’t a problem, and he’s got good positioning, but he could benefit from adding strength and improving on his decision making.
The Ducks haven’t had a consistent 30-goal scorer since Ryan and Corey Perry. Yes, Rickard Rakell had back-to-back 30-goal seasons, but he has struggled to reach 20 goals over the last two seasons. Anaheim finished 29th in goal scoring and 30th in power-play efficiency this season. I don’t always condone drafting based on need, but in this case, I’ll allow it.
Where Does He Fit in Anaheim?
It’s not crazy to assume that Holtz would immediately become the Ducks’ third-best winger, ranked alongside fellow Swedes Rakell and Jakub Silfverberg at the top of the depth chart. Over the last two seasons, the Ducks have consistently utilized their wingers on both sides, meaning Holtz would have a clearer path to the top-line right wing slot with Anaheim than we would with a team like the Chicago Blackhawks. He would be competing against the organization’s crop of youngsters, with Troy Terry, Max Jones, and Maxime Comtois all vying for top-nine minutes.
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Holtz projects to be the Ducks’ go-to option on offense long term and would likely form one of the league’s most lethal duos with Zegras. The thought of pairing one of the league’s best young playmakers with a scorer of Holtz’s ability is tantalizing. Zegras will be making his pro debut in 2020-21 either in Anaheim or San Diego, and the Ducks will likely attempt to have Holtz join him.
There’s a chance Holtz could join the Ducks for the 2020-21 season. However, with a delayed start to the NHL season looking more likely, he may return to Sweden instead. It wouldn’t be a bad move, and a chance to truly dominate in the SHL could help his development significantly.
Elite Goal Scorers Don’t Come Cheap
If the Ducks decide to go a different route on draft day, the alternate path to finding an elite scorer won’t come cheap. Mike Hoffman is the only consistent 30-goal threat available in free agency this offseason, and with an expiring price tag of over $5.5 million, he’s likely due for a raise. Taylor Hall, although not as consistent, can still score goals at an elite level. He’ll be available as well but will cost upwards of $8 million on the open market. Anaheim is operating with under $3 million in cap space, so attracting players of that caliber to rebuilding team will prove difficult.
The Ducks could explore the trade market, however, the cost to acquire an elite goal scorer wouldn’t make sense for a team in Anaheim’s position who would have to sell off assets. They’re one of seven teams who can make trades but don’t expect any deals to be made until the draft, if at all. Adding a player like Alexander Holtz would be ideal if he’s available when they’re on the clock.