The 2018 first-round pick made his NHL debut in November and went on to become a staple of the Blackhawks defense in the second half of the season.
When the Chicago Blackhawks selected 17-year-old Adam Boqvist with the eighth pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the hope was that the team had just landed one of the prominent offensive defensemen of the next generation. After all, the Falun, Sweden native was regarded as the top blueliner at both the 2018 Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament and the 2018 U-20 World Championship heading into the draft. The Blackhawks felt exceeding confident coming away with Boqvist as their first top-10 pick since Patrick Kane went first overall in 2007.
After spending a few seasons in Sweden’s junior hockey loop and bouncing between leagues throughout his draft year, Boqvist made the jump to North America to play for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League for the 2018-19 campaign. He went on to have quite a year up in Canada with 60 points (20G, 40A) in 54 games, which was sixth-most of all defensemen in the league. Following the conclusion of the season, Boqvist felt comfortable enough to make the jump to professional hockey after just one year with the Knights.
Heading into 2019-20, the expectation for Boqvist was that he would spend a vast majority of the season with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. That was precisely where Boqvist began the year, but after only one month with the team, he was recalled by the Blackhawks and made his NHL debut two days later against the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 2. Boqvist went on to score his first NHL goal in the next game against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Blackhawks top defenseman prospect played six games with the club before being re-assigned to the IceHogs on Nov. 13. Although, much like his first stint down in Rockford, Boqvist was not there for long as he was recalled by the Hawks for a second time on Dec. 9 retroactive to Andrew Shaw being put on long-term injured reserve. Boqvist would remain up at the NHL level for the rest of the regular season, finishing with six points (1G, 5A) in 15 games between two stints with the IceHogs.
With the Blackhawks losing both Calvin de Haan and Brent Seabrook to season-ending injuries in mid-December, Boqvist went on to become a key piece of the team’s defense in the second half of the year. He spent most games alongside two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith on the top defensive pairing, which is one of the best positions for any young defenseman to be it. In total, Boqvist went on to play in 41 games for the Hawks this season, recording four goals and nine assists for 13 points with a minus-3 plus/minus rating. He averaged 16:13 time on ice on the year, but in stretches, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound defenseman was consistently racking up 18 to 22 minutes per night.
Looking at some of Boqvist’s other statistics, and he impressively had the fewest penalty minutes of any Blackhawks’ player that played in over 40 games this season with just six. Boqvist also led all Blackhawks’ defensemen with an 8.0 shooting percentage, and his four goals were only two off of Erik Gustafsson for the team lead. As for Boqvist’s possession numbers, they were about as expected with a 47.9 Corsi percentage while starting in the offensive zone 59.2 percent of the time at even strength. The 19-year-old blueliner was on the ice for 29 goals for to 32 against at even strength as well.
Boqvist’s top performance of the season was likely the Blackhawks fourth-to-last game of the season on Mar. 3 against the Ducks, who he loved to play against in his rookie campaign. While skating with Keith on the top pairing, Boqvist tallied two assists, two blocks, one shot on goal, and a plus-three plus/minus rating in 20:03 time on ice. Boqvist only had one other multi-point contest on the year, and that came just two days later to tie his season-long point streak of three games.
Overall, Boqvist was indisputably impressive during his first NHL season. Not only were his offensive numbers some of the best among all Blackhawks’ defensemen, but he was much better than everyone expected him to be in the defensive zone as well. Coming into his first professional season, there was never much doubt about how Boqvist’s offensive abilities would translate to the next level, but there were worries about how he would defend against grown men in the dirty areas. So far in his short NHL career, Boqvist has been able to handle his own on defense, and he looked capable of handling a top-four role for the Hawks even at such a young age. Look for Boqvist to be paired with Keith once again for the Blackhawks best-of-five play-in series against the Edmonton Oilers, as they have been paired together for every practice since Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return-To-Play Plan kicked in last Monday.
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