New Jersey Devils: Where Does Jesper Boqvist Go From Here?

New Jersey Devils center Jesper Boqvist (90): (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils center Jesper Boqvist (90): (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

The New Jersey Devils learned a lot about the roster this past season. A lot of it was good. Yegor Sharangovich became a breakout star after a successful stint in the KHL. Janne Kuokkanen showed he was exactly what the Devils hoped when they traded Sami Vatanen to the Carolina Hurricanes. Jack Hughes pushed himself to a superstar trajectory. These are all great progressions for this young roster. One player who did not progress positively is Swedish winger Jesper Boqvist.

Most fans probably don’t realize the actual NHL chance Boqvist got this season. He played in 28 games with the Devils NHL team. He had seven points. In eight games in the AHL, he had those same seven points. Clearly, Boqvist is better than an AHL player, but he’s not quite an everyday NHL player either. They call those “quadruple-A” players in baseball. He’s a tweener player right now.

How should the Devils deal with Jesper Boqvist moving forward?

Boqvist came to New Jersey with a lot of fanfare. The former 2nd-round pick showed flashes of greatness when he played with Brynas IF. He had 35 points in 2018-19 before coming over to the NHL. For those who don’t know, young players often struggle to score in the SHL before coming to the NHL and playing well.

Jesper Bratt couldn’t even make it to the SHL, but then came to the NHL and played well immediately. Alexander Holtz only had 18 points for Djurgårdens IF. The SHL likes to lean on veterans, which shows how impressive it was for Boqvist to break that trend and score for Brynas.

There is obviously talent within Boqvist. He’s only 22 years old, so there’s plenty of time to get better. Here’s the issue. The Devils don’t seem to know what changes for Boqvist between levels. Why can he show a level of domination every time he plays for Binghamton, but he seems to fall in the background when he’s in the NHL? Is it overwhelming? Does pressure play a factor? He has the same talent level, but he has a problem showing it on the big stage.

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Boqvist was only averaging about 11 minutes of ice time per game. Some players just do better with more ice time, so that might be messing with his production. However, that’s likely not going to change anytime soon. Boqvist isn’t magically going to get a spot in the top six, so he needs to learn to do more in less time. He had 1.4 points per every 60 minutes of ice time. If he can get that to two points per 60, it will really help him stick to a spot on the roster. That would basically give Boqvist a point every three games. It’s not great, but it’s definitely enough to keep Boqvist in the lineup.

There are so many prospects that have passed Boqvist. However, he should look at Michael McLeod as motivation. The same thing happened to McLeod before this season. He went from a former 1st-round pick who was now an afterthought to an integral part of the NHL lineup and a piece that will be protected in the Seattle Expansion Draft.

Boqvist doesn’t need to be protected, so he’s going to get a shot to make the Devils next season. He has something to provide to the team, but both John Hynes and Lindy Ruff have had trouble really figuring out what that is. Boqvist shouldn’t be an afterthought just yet, and he could still be a really good NHL player. The Devils just need to figure out where Boqvist fits best now and in the future.