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World Juniors

Holtz, Raymond hope to earn roles with Sweden at WJC

Forwards using World Junior Summer Showcase to prove they belong 'in the mix'

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond were invited to play for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase at USA Hockey Arena this week because of a need for finishers.

"My biggest thing is score goals for my team to help my team win and I haven't done this now," Holtz said Wednesday. "I hope it will come."

That it didn't really come for either forward shouldn't diminish what the top 2020 NHL Draft prospects accomplished during their time here.

 

[RELATED: Complete Prospects coverage]

 

Holtz and Raymond each had an assist for Sweden in its 5-2 loss to Canada on Friday. It was the first point for each of them, but they were dangerous nearly every time they stepped on the ice during their five games. Holtz led Sweden with 14 shots on goal, and had a great chance on a breakaway in the third period of a 6-3 win against Finland on Saturday, and Raymond was second with 12 shots.

"They've been good since Day One," coach Tomas Monten said. "They create a lot, they've had tons of chances. Just talked this through the other day, the smaller rink takes away a little more time, maybe that's the biggest difference for them. We talked to them about maybe try to move the puck a little quicker, try to shoot it quicker. Feels like they were holding it one second too much, then a lot of the chances go by. It's smaller rink and a faster game than we have at home."

Raymond, a 17-year-old who scored two goals in 10 games with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League last season, said nothing about skating against the elite under-20 players from the United States, Canada and Finland surprised him.

"I expected it to be high-paced, physical, big players and it's been going fast out there," he said. "It's nothing that I'm not used to."

Monten played Holtz and Raymond, each a right-handed shot, on the same line, with Holtz moving to left wing. Jacob Olofsson (Montreal Canadiens) most often was their center.

"They're probably the most skilled on the team," Olofsson said. "You can see right away when you play with them and just in the training they're doing these beautiful plays every time and creating chances, having fun out there."

Canada coach Dale Hunter was impressed by what he saw.

"They're unique players," he said. "They're fast, they can shoot the puck, they can zip the puck, they can saucer the puck. Their skill level is very high and they work."

Monten said there were positives for Holtz and Raymond beyond anything they accomplished on the ice. Just experiencing playing North America, in a high-profile event that attracted significant media attention, was a positive for what they'll experience as they prepare for the 2020 NHL Draft.

"They need to go through it," he said. "Getting this opportunity to stay here, send them to (the media), I think it's going to help them. Better to start off now than to get everything during the World Juniors or the Under-18s or just before the draft, around the combine. I think it's a process."

Holtz (5-foot-11, 192 pounds) scored 30 goals in 38 games with Djurgarden in Sweden's junior league and played in three games for Djurgarden in the SHL last season. The 17-year-old patterns his game after forwards Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Hall of Famer Mats Sundin.

"Righties that can shoot the puck very well," he said.

Raymond had 48 points (13 goals, 35 assists) in 37 games with Frolunda in Sweden's junior league in addition to his SHL time. In the championship game of the World U-18, he capped a hat trick with an overtime goal.

Monten compared Raymond (5-11, 170) to some of the top playmaking young forwards in the NHL, among them Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner.

"He can make plays, have good things come from his stick," Monten said. "But I think still he's really competitive. I think he's not afraid of sticking his head into situations. I think that will help him move through."

The next step for Holtz and Raymond will be to focus on playing full-time in the SHL this season and earning significant roles at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

"We knew that they're really talented and skilled," Monten said. "But what helps their game is that they work really hard, they skate, they're not afraid of playing in the dirty areas. ... Raymond is more of a playmaker, Holtz is more of a shooter, a scorer. But they've been good for us. They've showed they want to be in the mix for the World Juniors."

Main photo: Alexander Holtz (left) and Lucas Raymond (right). Photos courtesy of Rena Laverty/USA Hockey

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