New Jersey Devils Patience With Jesper Boqvist Pays Off
No two NHL prospects are alike. Neither is the process that NHL teams develop those prospects. Keep that in mind when evaluating the progress of New Jersey Devils prospect Jesper Boqvist. Everyone is different, reacts different, and when organizations sign players and really have them under their guidance – that’s when you really start to see some results.
The New Jersey Devils have gone through that with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Michael McLeod, and Jesper Bratt. I intentionally left out goalies and defensemen because I feel like they develop differently and are often on different paths. Now, as we hit the final two months of the 2021-22 we are starting to see the fruits of their labor with Boqvist.
The Swedish forward who was a 2nd-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft (36th overall) is enjoying his best season as a pro in North America and over the last month or so has become not just a regular in the lineup, but also a contributor as well.
Bo(qvist) Knows Hockey
“He’s got himself on a nice little run. He’s really skating well and he’s playing as well as I’ve seen him play,” Devils Head Coach Lindy Ruff said after his team walloped the Vancouver Canucks. “It starts with moving your feet and the goal he scored tonight was a pure effort by him to get past the defenseman; he fought him off and it’s the type of goal that’ll tell you that he’s really working hard to get to the net.”
The numbers are starting to show that as well. This season in 28 games the 23-year-old forward has put up 12 points (5g-7a) after entering the season with 11 points total. If he plays in seven more games (which he absolutely should unless he gets injured), Boqvist will set a new career-high for games played in a season. He’s nine games away from 100 NHL games.
“I feel like I’m on a good path here and having a lot of fun every night,” Boqvist said after the Vancouver game. “Hopefully, I can keep contributing and help this team win so I can keep playing.”
He’s of the opinion that at this point his learning curve is flattened the more he plays, and seeing the most recent results it is hard to argue with that logic. Whether it’s feeling comfortable with the coaching staff, the younger group of players on the roster/in the organization, or just simply that a switch was flipped – Boqvist is starting to show the promise that led to him being a second-round selection by the Devils.
Perhaps it’s the fact with Hughes and Hischier ahead of him at the center position on the depth chart that he is slotted in a better spot for him and what he can bring to a game on any given night. “I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot too, from a lot of different players and you pick up little things and tips from them,” he told Pucks and Pitchforks. “I think you learn the more you play.”
Boqvist Giving Lineup a Boost
What has been a change that his coach has noticed? Confidence with the puck, and less afraid to make a mistake on the ice. “The entries on the rush, take them with your speed; Bo has been starting to do that,” Ruff says.
“I think all players are afraid to make mistakes. We’ve talked about our puck play and the mistakes inside a game (that burn us). For me, Bo’s growth is all about how well he’s skating – he’s creating his own space, beating guys one-on-one, driving guys wide. Obviously, his legs are feeling good, is that confidence or is it him believing he has this ability to take people wide, and believing in what he’s trying to do?”
Probably a bit of both if we had to gander. Again, maybe it helps his development with 13 and 86 ahead of him on the depth chart, and when they start going it energizes everyone to keep up and not get left behind. Just look at how the Hughes’ line set the tone for the 7-2 thrashing of the Canucks.
“They’re (17-86-18) showing us the way and we have to keep up,” replied Boqvist with a laugh when asked if that trio’s presence has been setting the tone for the team. “I guess I’ve been growing into my role as I have been playing more. I feel like you learn a lot from playing, it’s been fun for sure.”
No one knows what the future holds. Not every drafted player or prospect will stay with the Devils. Especially when they may need to sacrifice some assets to acquire a top-tier (or even second-tier) goaltender during this off-season. But Boqvist is making a strong case that he can play and belongs at this level. Whether it’s elsewhere or New Jersey remains to be seen, but he could be a nice part of the bottom-6 forward group in the coming years if he sticks around long enough.