Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Alexander Holtz has two things going for him with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone -- knowing where to go and when to shoot.
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound right wing for Djurgarden of the Swedish Hockey League is one of two Sweden-born forward prospects, along with Lucas Raymond of Frolunda, projected to be chosen among the top five in the 2020 NHL Draft at Bell Centre in Montreal on June 26-27.
"I like to play a high-tempo game and like to score goals, make great plays and have great speed and great stickhandling," Holtz said. "I think my game has been much better this season. I play a 200-foot game and am much more comfortable with my skating, so I think that's the most important thing."
Holtz has eight points (five goals, three assists) and 35 shots on goal while averaging 13:21 of ice time in 21 games. He averaged 5:32 in ice time and had no points in three SHL games last season.
"I think (my success this season) has been a mix between playing with good players and the hard work you put in every day," Holtz said. "My overall game has been much better."
Holtz has benefited from playing on a line with former NHL player Patrik Berglund and Sebastian Strandberg.
Berglund, selected in the first round (No. 25) of the 2006 NHL Draft, played 11 NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues and Buffalo Sabres before signing with Djurgarden on July 2. The 31-year-old center leads Djurgarden with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 24 games.
"I learn new things from him every day," Holtz said of Berglund. "I love the way he protects the puck."
Holtz and Raymond (5-11, 170), a left wing, often are linked together when discussing the top Sweden-born players eligible for the 2020 Draft since they are each so dynamic with what they can do on the ice. Holtz is considered the better goal scorer while Raymond might be the better playmaker.
"[Holtz] is an amazing player and person," Raymond said. "He's extremely skilled and has a lethal shot. It's incredible. He still has speed despite his size, has great vision and is a great player to play with. If you give him a good shot, 99 percent of the time it's going in."
Holtz and Raymond, each an A-rated player in NHL Central Scouting's Players to Watch list, were invited to Sweden's national junior team selection camp, which begins Monday in Uppsala, Sweden, to help determine the roster for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Czech Republic from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2020. Sweden will depart for Czech Republic on Dec. 19.
"Holtz is an elite goal scorer," said Sweden WJC coach Tomas Monten. "He has a great shot, wants to shoot, and wants to be the guy that finishes every play. I think he's a little bit stronger than [Raymond] and has a little more muscle and weight but I think Lucas has more speed.
"Holtz works hard, goes to the dirty areas and wants to be a difference-maker. In some ways Holtz and Raymond complete each other, but [Raymond] is more of a playmaker and Holtz more a finisher."
Holtz scored 30 goals in 38 games in Sweden's junior league last season. He does a lot of off-ice training, bolstering several different aspects of his game, including his shot, passing and stickhandling.
"I try to be strong all the time," he said. "Try to be strong off the ice so I can be strong on the ice. I can get the goals in the trenches too."
Holtz was born in Saltsjo-Boo, Sweden, about 10 miles east of Stockholm, where he played plenty of hockey with his brother, David, who is six years older.
"We have a rink four minutes from my house in Sweden so I was on the ice when I was little and my father (Magnus) was my coach when I was 6 years old," Holtz said. "Dad used to tell me that you can't play hockey the right way if you're not having fun and I always have a lot of fun."
Holtz had seven points (two goals, five assists) in five games to help Sweden finish second at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and seven points (four goals, three assists) to help Sweden win the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
"He has a great selection of shots and is a true sniper with a quick release," said Goran Stubb, the NHL director of European Scouting. "He's smart and intelligent and not only a scorer but a playmaker who finds teammates with smart passes. He's very effective on the power play, skilled with the puck, makes smart decisions and is a strong competitor in all areas of the ice."
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