Today we will take a look at a trio of recent National Hockey League draft picks who had big nights at three different levels of hockey. First, the New Jersey Devils’ 2020 top pick broke out of a slump in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). We come back to the United States to check on a Minnesota Wild prospect who came up huge in his NCAA season opener. Finally, a quick trip over to the United States Hockey League (USHL) where a speedy draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights made one heck of a debut.
Holtz Breaks Out
The Devils have had a rough go of it lately, but things are looking up for the near future. Two former first-overall picks, Nico Nischier and Jack Hughes, appear to have another exciting young teammate on the way.
Alexander Holtz was selected with the seventh overall pick of last month’s NHL Entry Draft by the Devils. He is currently in his second season with Djurgardens IF in the SHL. After nine goals and 16 points last season, the 18-year-old winger got off to a hot start in 2020-21. He had four goals and six points in his first seven games.
Holtz then went seven straight games without a goal, but he busted out in a big way on Saturday. He scored late in the first period to give Djurgardens a 1-0 lead over Frolunda. His release on this shot is one of the reasons why New Jersey used their top pick on him.
There was no seven-game wait in between goals this time around. In fact, Holtz needed just over 10 minutes of game time before finding the back of the net again, giving his team a 2-0 lead early in the second period, while falling down.
Frolunda stormed back to tie the game before William Eklund, who had the primary assist on Holtz’s second goal, scored the game-winner in the third period. Holtz and Eklund are expected to play for Sweden at the upcoming World Junior Championship.
McBain Blows Up in Season Debut
Fans of The Simpsons are used to seeing a McBain save the day, and now Boston College fans got a taste of that. The Eagles took to the ice for the first time in the 2020-21 season on Friday night. The talented squad, which features 12 recent NHL draft picks, beat UMass Amherst 4-3 in their season opener.
Jack McBain, drafted by Minnesota in the third round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, was the star of the night as he scored twice in his debut on the BC first line. He netted the Eagles’ first goal of the season by going bar down from just below the left circle.
Late in the second period, McBain struck again to put Boston College up 3-1. The play was started by freshman, and fellow Wild draftee (2019, sixth round), Nikita Nesterenko, whose stretch pass got McBain into the offensive zone. From there, he dodged a defender and ripped a shot to the high blocker side that left goaltender Matt Murray (not that one) helpless.
With David Cotton and Julius Mattila no longer on the team, McBain was promoted to the top line and responded better than anyone could have hoped. He had six goals in each of his first two seasons at Boston College so this fast start is very encouraging.
A Hallum of a USHL Debut
Nearly every scouting report on Jackson Hallum starts off by raving about his speed. When you watch film on him, it takes very little time to realize that he is the fastest player on the ice and it isn’t even close. It is this elite-level speed that led the Golden Knights to select him in the third round (91st overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Hallum made his USHL debut on Friday night and the Chicago Steel got an up-close look at just how fast he is. The youngster scored a hat trick in his first game for the Green Bay Gamblers, leading them to a 7-4 victory over the defending league champions.
At just 18, Hallum has a long way to go before we can start worrying about his professional career. His development is in good hands as he is committed to playing for the University of Michigan, one of the top college programs in the United States. He will make his way to campus in Ann Arbor, MI in the fall of 2022.
All stats provided by Hockey InStat.