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Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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Alexander Holtz has been a busy man since his season with Djurgardens in the Swedish Hockey League came to a premature end due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The right wing is dealing with a constant stream of requests from media and National Hockey League teams, who are eager to chat with the promising prospect. Holtz, ranked No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of European skaters, estimates he hears from three teams a week.

What's the toughest question he gets asked? 

"Maybe it's not a very hard question, but they say, 'Mention a player like you in the NHL,'" Holtz said.

Fellow Swedish prospect Lucas Raymond, a left winger with Frolunda, compares his buddy's game to that of Alex Ovechkin, but Holtz isn't so sure. 

"I don't know if my game is exactly like Ovechkin," Holtz noted. "I think I'm more like David Pastrnak or Filip Forsberg. I love to watch them. Both are right [handed] and you love to watch the righties more, because you can see yourself in them. Pastrnak had an amazing year as did Forsberg. He did the [lacrosse] move and both guys are really creative on the ice. It's lovely to watch."

Ovechkin and Pastrnak were tied for the league lead with 48 goals when the NHL pressed pause on its season back in March. Holtz is one of the best snipers in this draft class so you can certainly understand his choice in role models. 

"I'm a goal scorer," Holtz said when asked to describe his game. "I'm a very good offensive player. I can play a responsible 200-foot game also, but my strengths are in the offensive zone setting up my teammates and shooting the biscuit."

Holtz put the biscuit in the basket nine times in 35 games while facing men in the top Swedish league this season. The 18-year-old spoke to TSN via Zoom this week from Stockholm and shared insight on his impressive rookie results. Holtz also spoke about his passion for cooking and revealed his favourite goal from the season. 

The following is an edited transcript of the interview. 

How did you become such a gifted goal scorer at such a young age? 

"It's hard to describe and answer. I'd say I love to score goals and I always loved to score goals. I love to shoot. I have a fantastic, big shooting ramp here at home, so I can stand out there for hours listening to music and just shooting pucks. I like to watch goal scorers and watch the top 10 goals from each season and so on, so I think it comes from there." 

What's the best goal you saw in the NHL this year? 

"I think when Mitch Marner put it between his legs and had a backhand, five-hole goal, that was a really good goal."

What was the favourite goal you scored this season? 

"We played at home against Farjestad and I got around the defenceman and put it in on a small angle. I didn't have much space to shoot, but I shot it and it went in. It was really good."

What's your favourite type of goal to score? 

"Every righty loves to shoot the one-timers on the power play, but I don't score so much on that yet. Of course, my wrist shot is the best, but I love scoring on one-timers." 

What was it like to score an overtime winner against Finland at the World Juniors​? 

"It was fantastic, yeah. To be allowed to play in overtime and score a goal, everyone is coming to you, so it was fantastic." 

 

What are you most proud of about your season? 

"Playing for the men's team at Djurgardens. I support Djurgardens and it's been my favourite team my whole life, so getting a chance to play for them has been really fun. Getting a chance to come on the ice with the crowd every night has been really fun. That's the biggest experience I will take with me from this year."

Did you have a favourite moment this season? 

"Every time we win at home, it's incredible."

What's the No. 1 thing you learned playing against men?

"Everyone is stronger. Everyone is bigger. Everyone has played the game so much longer. Of course, it’s hard to play against them, but it's fun also. It's been a really fun year playing against men. They've played longer so they have more of a routine and that's what I learned."

How did you prepare to face men this year? 

"Putting on more weight, more muscles and getting it in your head that you have to earn your spot and show everyone what you're capable of every day. So, I think it was about going to the rink with that attitude every day."

What will you focus on this summer?

"I want my [first] three steps to get faster. I focus on sprints, jumps and starts on the ice."

During the coronavirus outbreak, Sweden has had more relaxed restrictions than most countries. What do you think of that? 

"It's hard to answer. I don't know exactly. Of course, it's nice that everything's open. You can play other sports and go to the arena and on the ice. I don't know what's the best [plan] but I like it the way it is ... I'm training as usual and being on the ice so almost everything is open."

Will it be tough to wait if the draft doesn't happen in June and ends up being months later? 

Yeah, of course, it would be. You want the draft to be as soon as possible. Of course, if that's the situation it would be hard."

This is considered to be a very strong draft class, especially at the top. Do you feel your talent compares with the other top prospects? 

"Yeah, I would say that. I put up a pretty good year. Of course, the draft class is really good so it's hard to get yourself in the No. 1 position." 

You and Lucas Raymond have been coming up together. What impresses you about his skill-set?

"He's a fantastic player. He's very skilled, really fast. He can change the direction very fast, so you don't know exactly what he is going to do. I think that is his best asset. He's a really good playmaker who can shoot the puck also. He's very creative on the ice."

Which NHL player does he remind you of? 

"I would say he's more like Mitch Marner. He's a playmaker, who's very skilled."

 

What do you do to have fun off the ice? 

"I like to play other sports like tennis. We have something in Sweden called paddle, which is very popular right now. I like to hang out with friends. I like to cook good food."

Why do you like to cook? 

"I don't know, actually. I like to watch cooking programs. I love food so I think it comes from there."

What's your favourite guilty pleasure meal? 

"I like pasta pesto with prosciutto and mozzarella or something like that. It tastes really good so that's my best dish." 

Do you think cooking gives you an edge? A lot of young players rely on ordering food or going out.  

"I think so. You learn more about food and what's in it and what's good. Yeah, it's a good habit."