The Century Mark: Alexander Holtz and Lukas Reichel

Alex Wyatt

2024-03-04

Welcome back for another edition of the Century Mark, where I aim to dive into some of the underlying numbers on a few players who are reaching the threshold of 100 NHL games played. My aim is to help you understand what the metrics mean, and if there’s anything in the tea leaves to help you decide if it’s worth continuing to invest in your player. Each edition I will also try to give an introduction to the tools you have at your disposal on the Frozen Tools page, by going under the hood in one of the many at your fingertips.

This month we dive into two wingers who, though they have their own skills they bring to the table, have been stashed no doubt due to who they could end up lining up beside. With Connor Bedard the option for Lukas Reichel, and Jack Hughes for Alexander Holtz, if either youngster made their case to ride shotgun with those young phenoms, they could provide value for a decade on your fantasy squad. Both players are nearing the Century Mark, so let’s see what we may have in either. 

Alexander Holtz (NJD), 22, RW

Though the theme of the 2020 draft was “Byfield vs Lafreniere” in terms of who should be taken first overall, the argument on who owned the best shot in the draft always had Holtz’s name mentioned. Taken 7th overall by New Jersey, the vision of seeing the Swedish sniper skating alongside fellow youngsters Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes was tantalizing. Whether Holtz ended up on the first or second line at 5 on 5, he was destined to ride shotgun with a first-overall center for the majority of his career, and oh the goals he would collect along the way.

Holtz made his way to North America in the 2020-21 season, which was a good sign that he was close to joining the team, and was transitioning his game to the North American pro ranks. He suited up for 10 games with Binghamton and provided a modest goal and two assists. The following year was very promising, with 26 goals and 25 assists for 51 points in 52 games, leaving Devils’ fans and Holtz investors feeling that he was on the cusp of making his way to the NHL. 

Unfortunately, 2022-23 was not the continuation of the trajectory any had hoped. He saw 14 games of AHL action and provided five goals and six assists in that span, serviceable numbers that saw him earn a call up to the big leagues. Once in the NHL however, he was only dressed for 19 games, scoring three times and adding an assist. 

This year, Alex Holtz is here. He’s been in the NHL all year and has played in every game, which is saying a lot for any member of the Devils this season. His deployment, however, has been suspect. It’s not uncommon for a young NHLer to ride the bottom lines early in their career as they learn the ropes, especially given how stacked New Jersey’s top six are. The fact is, however, that Holtz has seen almost no time at all with Hischier or Hughes, despite Timo Meier missing time and both Meier and incumbent youngster Dawson Mercer underperforming this season. Surely opportunity has been present for Holtz to eat some of the deployment of Mercer, who has played more than a third of his even strength minutes with one of Hughes, Hischier or Meier, while Holtz has seen almost no time at all with any one of that trifecta. His time on ice has also stalled near the 11 minutes he’s gotten in previous seasons, while his share of power play time has declined to a quarter of the available minutes.

Underlying numbers for Holtz are good, when measured on a per 60 minutes of ice time basis. His shots per 60 are climbing, and he has a strong Individual Points Percentage (IPP), factoring in on 70% of the goals scored while he is on the ice at Even Strength. The Corsi For percentage is middling, but both this and the strong IPP can be tied to the fact that Holtz is buckled to a bunch of bottom-six forwards who are not out there to drive offense. He may be the only one thinking “scoring chance” more often than not.

Ultimately, the choice to retain Holtz could come down to your roster makeup. If you are a middling team, needing to plan for the future, you want to consider acquiring Holtz. Tyler Toffoli is a UFA, and his performance with New Jersey has been about his career average. If I put my armchair GM hat on, I’d much rather give Holtz a look in his place in the top six, and plug a cheaper, more defensively sound player in the bottom six spot Holtz has been occupying. 

If you’re a championship hopeful, he might be the piece you dangle for a deadline rental. I made this move myself in one of my keeper leagues. Holtz was not producing enough yet currently to justify usurping an incumbent winger keeper come cut time, so I was able to land Eeli Tolvanen and a pick in exchange. This move ends up providing me similar points and shots with a noticeable uptick to hits, a category I am often caved in on and could cost me a playoff round. Though I may end up ruing the day I made this deal should I fizzle in the playoffs and Holtz hits his ceiling, these are the types of moves you need to consider as you move from a rebuilding, prospect hoarding squad to a contender.

 Lukas Reichel (CHI), 21, LW

Lukas Reichel is another young winger who has been showing his skills in the AHL, but hasn’t yet planted roots at the NHL level in order to solidify his place on both the Blackhawks’ roster, and our own pro rosters for our fantasy squads.

Reichel is a solid-skating, puck-handling winger who has a pedigree of playing and succeeding in top men’s leagues in Europe as a fresh-faced teenager. He followed that up with solid showings as a rookie in the North American professional circuit with 111 points in 116 AHL games. Perhaps his inability to stick with the Chicago Blackhawks over the past two seasons has as much to do with the absolute dearth of talent around him as it does with his own aptitude. Perhaps getting a chance to shine in the AHL while the NHL squad gets its house in order is exactly the right move for a developing youngster. Regardless of the specific reasons he isn’t currently lining up alongside Connor Bedard in Chicago, let’s take a closer look at Lukas Reichel as he approaches his 100th NHL game.

Lukas Reichel spent his D0 year playing against men much bigger and older than him, playing for Eisnbaren Berlin in the German Pro DEL league. He finished as a top-ten scorer for his team, and followed that up with a fifth-place showing the following year. These are always things a shrewd prospector should look for, when a teenager is able to join a professional men’s league, playing with and against players who are potentially decades older, more physically mature and experienced. Of course, the particular league itself needs to be taken into account when judging the quality of competition, and that Reichel’s performance maintained when coming to the AHL is a good sign.

Many of Reichel’s stats this year show a snake bitten young player, who was getting menial opportunity on a terrible team. His time on ice is down two minutes from his 23 game stint last year, to 14:24 a night, and he was seeing only a third of the available powerplay minutes, mostly from the second pairing. On one hand, a superstar player would be able to elevate the team he is on, and find a way to make offense happen, but Lukas Reichel is not Connor Bedard.

Reichel’s shooting percentage this season sits at 4.8%, compared to a career mark of 8.3%, and his SOG/60 has dipped by one and a half this year versus last, but the vast majority of his play driving numbers- Corsi For %, Individual Points Percentage- rank right in line with the rest of his NHL career. In fact, looking at Reichel’s AHL Frozen Tool profile page, you can see he has been Mr. Consistent in Rockford. 

Perhaps protecting him from the current Chicago Blackhawks roster while allowing him to gain confidence in the AHL is the best thing for his development at present.

As mentioned above, I used Alex Holtz as a trade chip in the league I am chasing a championship and in that same league I could not move Lukas Reichel for anything. Reichel has never had the name value of Holtz—a 7th overall pick vs a second rounder may be the reason for that, despite their similar production—and it appears that his value is somewhat low at present. If I didn’t already hold Reichel on nearly every one of my teams, I would be very interested in acquiring him were I in a position to devote a pro roster position to him once his farm eligibility expires. If he finishes the season without coming back up to the big club, you’ll be able to keep him hidden on your farm squad for the off-season, presuming your league uses the 100 NHL games played cut off.

He appears to have the potential to be a decent second-line forward, and his lack of peripherals will give him more value in straight points leagues. The allure of ‘he could play next to Connor’ is a potential trap, as look at how many Alex Chiassons and Zack Kassians were drafted way farther up the board than they should have before Zach Hyman finally filled that role. If you peg Reichel as a likely 50-60 point guy on a second line with potential power play time, I think that’s a fair valuation for his ceiling at present, and market prices indicate you could acquire him for less than that.

I hope some of the tools I demonstrated this month are of help to you and that you have a deep run in the playoffs, or a fat war chest of draft picks to position while you wait for them to end.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next month for the next instalment.

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