Newark, NJ – Despite playing on three teams at different levels in his draft year, New Jersey Devils Jesper Boqvist was a borderline first-round talent in 2017 when they selected him in the second round, 36th overall.
According to EliteProspects, Boqvist pre-draft was viewed as “an offensive skilled player with impressive skating and puck skills. Shifty player who scores spectacular goals from time to time. There’s some consistency issues, but when on top of his game, Boqvist can be quite dominant with the puck and an offensive threat.”
One New Jersey scout even described Boqvist as “a very skilled player, really good speed and puck skills, a player that we see as an offensive type of player.”
In the 2021-22 season, Boqvist showed NHL promise. In 2022-23, it was, for the most part, his first full season in the NHL playing in 70 games. Boqvist had some really good moments where you could see the player start to emerge that the Devils believed they drafted. Other times, his play resulted in him taking a seat in the press box and watching.
“Before Christmas there I was playing in and out of the lineup,” Boqvist said. “I was playing low minutes. Too much up and down (in my game) overall.”
From the start of the regular season through Jan. 1st, Boqvist could hardly be found on the scoresheet. In 31 games, the Swedish forward scored three goals and four points. In those 31 games, his analytic’s looked good. He carried a 52.67 Corsi-for percentage and a swell 56.02 expected goals-for percentage at 5on5.
However, his high-danger goals-for percentage was quite low at 41.67%. According to the eye test, that adds up. Earlier in the season, Boqvist was quite good at transitioning the puck from one end of the ice to the next. Yet, when the puck crossed the opponent’s blue line, it didn’t often result in a high-danger scoring chance.
The forward group is bound to look a little different in 2023-24. At least in the bottom six, anyway. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald has a number of contracts to handle in the offseason and Boqvist is included on that list. However, the 24-year-old is a restricted free agent and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be back in New Jersey.
The 39 games Boqvist played in the second half of the season were much better. Boqvist scored seven goals and 17 points throughout the remainder of the year. As stated in last week’s mailbag, Boqvist’s analytics “boasted a 52.22 CF% and an even better 54.41 xGF%.”
At times, he played so well that head coach Lindy Ruff elevated his role and lined Boqvist up on J. Hughes’ wing.
Boqvist and Hughes skated a total of 58:37 together from Jan. 4th through the end of the regular season. It’s not the largest sample size, but the analytics look quite good. The duo totaled a 59.05 CF%, 67.24 xGF%, and registered 12 high-danger chances while only allowing eight.
More often than not, however, Boqvist’s role changed despite playing quite well in the second half of the season. With some inevitable departures this summer, there will be roles to claim at the Devils training camp in September.
Boqvist knows what he has to do to maintain a regular role.
“I gotta keep working my balls off,” Boqvist claimed. “Hopefully, come here next year and be a better player and find myself a role. I can’t wait actually.”
The Devils’ top-6 appears set for the most part. Assuming Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier return, Nico Hischier will most likely center Bratt and Ondrej Palat while Meier plays with J. Hughes. Dawson Mercer is also likely to return to the top-6, however, there’s no denying the chemistry J. Hughes has with Erik Haula.
Boqvist could put himself in the top-6 conversation with a strong training camp. At the very least, he’s poised to compete for the third-line center role.
This summer, Boqvist will be heading back to his hometown in Falun, Sweden to train. He’ll meet his brother, Adam, whose already there following the end of the regular season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Adam, a Columbus defenseman, is a few years younger than Jesper. Now that they’re both established in the NHL, the brothers push each other to be better in the offseason.
“It’s huge to have (Adam) and now that we’re older, we’re the same (size) in muscles and stuff,” Boqvist said. “So, it’s fun. It’s a lot of competition and a lot of fun for sure.”
Part of the fun for Jesper and Adam while training together is the fact that the two play in the same division.
“When we see (other players) in summer and they’re guessing who’s going to be the best team and stuff… I was right this year so hopefully I’m right in the future too,” Boqvist said with a chuckle.
When asked about what he specifically wanted to work on in his game, the answer was simple to Boqvist.
“Everything,” Boqvist said.
“I want to be a better skater and get stronger. I want to get stronger on pucks and I want to score more goals, so maybe work on my shot, too.”
Luckily for Boqvist, he’s already conquered half the battle. The physical part of the game is what Boqvist is looking to improve on. The mental part of the game he stated he has down. Hopefully, for the Devils, Boqvist’s mental preparedness allows him to take that next step in 2023-24.
“I feel like mentally I’ve been pretty steady,” Boqvist stated. “Mentally, I don’t think I’ve had too many ups and downs. It’s just playing-wise, I think. I’m mentally ready to go every time I get the chance.”
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