In a bit of a surprise, the Boston Bruins announced Saturday that they’d be placing forward Jesper Boqvist on waivers to be assigned to their AHL affiliate the Providence Bruins. We know that guy, right? It might be time to bring the former New Jersey Devils staple home.
Over the last few weeks, the Devils’ roster has taken a strange, unexpected shape. Alexander Holtz has surprisingly found his way into the top six alongside Nico Hischier and Timo Meier, and Simon Nemec has wholly outplayed both Colin Miller and Brendan Smith in the preseason.
At the moment, it would seem the Devils are poised to begin turning the keys over to their youngest players in what should be their second season as a playoff team. However, there’s no guarantee that all works out, and that’s where Boqvist comes in.
Boqvist, 24, played parts of four NHL seasons with the Devils in his career, and the 2022-23 season was when he was finally able to establish himself as a regular in the lineup. The versatile forward scored 10 goals and 21 points in 70 games – a step back from his 23 points in 56 games the year prior – but he averaged the fewest minutes per game of any forward who played in at least 20 games for the Devils.
The fit for the Devils
After being cut by the Bruins, it’s clear Boqvist is no longer an ‘NHL regular’ for the time being, but the Devils absolutely have a place for him should they wish to bring him back. When the Devils traded Yegor Sharangovich for Tyler Toffoli, they lost the forward who played the second-most shorthanded minutes of any New Jersey forward – second to only Nico Hischier.
Neither Holtz nor Toffoli plays on the penalty kill, so those minutes are slated to be divvied up amongst some combination of Curtis Lazar, Ondrej Palat, and Tomas Nosek. So, why not give them some relief from a player who knows the system and has killed penalties for New Jersey in the past? Last season, Boqvist averaged 28 seconds of shorthanded ice time, which is the least of any Devils forward who was shorthanded for more than 10 seconds, but it’s something.
And, what if Holtz doesn’t land on his feet to start the season? The Devils would presumably move Dawson Mercer up to the Hischier and Meier line, but does Holtz fit on a more brick-and-mortar line that consists of Erik Haula and Ondrej Palat? Probably not, but Boqvist played the best hockey of his career alongside those two.
According to Moneypuck, of all forward lines that played at least 70 minutes of ice time, the Devils’ line of Palat, Haula, and Boqvist had the second-best expected goals percentage (xGoals %) in the entire NHL (74.6 percent), trailing only the Florida Panthers’ Lomberg-Staal-Reinhart line (75.4 percent). For more context, the Devils’ line of Haula-Hughes-Bratt was fifth with a percentage of 70.1.
Indeed, a small sample size, but it would be foolish not to believe that Boqvist would not have value on this Devils team. With Nolan Foote (apparently) injured and Tyce Thompson also on waivers, New Jersey’s two extra forwards would be some combination of Lazar, Nathan Bastian, and Chris Tierney. It’s uncertain whether or not Bastian is fully healthy and recovered from his own injury, while Tierney is a newcomer. With the amount of uncertainty on the roster, the Devils might benefit from knowing what they’ll get.
Claiming Boqvist off waivers won’t be make-or-break for the Devils – far from it – but he would likely be far more valuable as a rotational forward than the other players. But first, the ex-Devil has to make it down to New Jersey in the waiver order.