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Travis Green Explains Alexander Holtz’s Promotion in Devils Lineup

Alexander Holtz nets his 15th goal of the season, assisted by Jack Hughes on Tuesday night. Travis Green explains the promotion.



New Jersey Devils

NEWARK — Skating alongside Jack Hughes on the New Jersey Devils’ second line on Tuesday, Alexander Holtz potted his 15th goal of the 2023-24 season.

Yes, you read that right. If you weren’t completely tuned into Tuesday night’s tilt hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins, Holtz was elevated to the Devils’ second line, a top-six role alongside New Jersey’s franchise forward (and Erik Haula).

Holtz has slowly but surely crept his way up the lineup ever since interim head coach Travis Green took over bench boss duties.

Tuesday night’s effort wasn’t perfect. Holtz nearly made a costly mistake below the Devils’ goal line turning the puck over to the Penguins that created a high-danger chance for Pittsburgh. Jake Allen — who has been superb in the Devils’ crease — fortunately turned the shot aside and bailed out the young Devils forward.

What happened next was certainly encouraging.

Practicing short memory, Holtz kept his head down and went back to work. After Haula won a faceoff in the Penguins’ end of the ice, Hughes put a shot on goal from the left circle. Holtz, standing at the top of Tristan Jarry’s crease, buried the rebound chance and padded New Jersey’s lead by two.

Part of the reason Holtz has been so low in the Devils’ lineup this season has nothing to do with his ability with the puck on the end of his stick. However, what former head coach Lindy Ruff and interim head coach Travis Green have been preaching is his play away from the rubber. According to interim coach Green, Holtz has proven those parts of his game have led to the opportunity of an increased role.

“I felt like there are certain things that we’ve been looking for out of players and I think he’s been trying to do that,” Green said to New Jersey Hockey Now. “I think when a player is doing that, you try to reward him and that was really the reason behind it. He’s trying to play quicker, he’s trying to play better away from the puck and be stronger on pucks. When you see effort with a young player I think it’s important to reward him too.”

Holtz’s one blunder aside, you could see his game has becoming more efficient. He’s been positionally sound defensively, winning his puck battles, and helping move the puck in transition up the ice toward the offensive zone.

Of all the regulars in the Devils’ lineup, Holtz has one of the lowest average time on ice at 11:36. However, in Tuesday night’s victory, Holtz was deployed for 13:37, registering a goal on two shots and was a plus-1. According to Natural Stat Trick, Holtz registered an elite 56.00 CF% and an excellent 54.66 xGF%.

Certainly, Green has given Holtz an opportunity he has had so rarely before. Previously, the young Swedish forward might have ridden the bench for the remainder of the contest after a mistake such as the one he made against Pittsburgh. Instead, Green put Holtz right back out on the ice to work through the mistake, and it paid off.

And what do you know? On Wednesday at morning skate, Holtz remains working on the second line assuming top-six duties.

Perhaps, this is the turning point for the former seventh overall selection.

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