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CBJ Top 25 Under 25: Get the inside scoop on Adam Boqvist from Second City Hockey

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Chicago’s loss is our gain

Chicago Blackhawks v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Thanks to everyone who voted for this year’s Top 25 Under 25 ranking. We had 102 submissions from Columbus Blue Jackets fans. We have counted down the 25 highest voted players over last month and have now reached the Top 5. Up next: Adam Boqvist.

#5: Adam Boqvist

Voting

4th out of 38 eligible players
Writer Rank: 5
Reader Rank: 4
Highest placement: 2 (3 votes)
Most common placement: 3 (26 votes)
2019 Rank: N/A

Biography

Birthdate: August 15, 2000
Birthplace: Falun, Sweden
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 179 lbs
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Acquired: Acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 23 in a trade which sent Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks

2020-21 Season

In his second NHL season, Boqvist played 35 games and collected 16 points (2 goals/14 assists). He averaged 16:59 a night and also quarterbacked Chicago’s first power play unit. He got to play a lot of minutes with Duncan Keith, who must be a great mentor for a young defenseman. Jones learned a lot from Shea Weber in Nashville, and hopefully Boqvist had a similar experience with Keith, a future hall of famer.

2021-22 Forecast

Expectations are high for Boqvist in Columbus after he was the centerpiece of the Seth Jones trade. He will get a chance to play a bigger 5v5 role, likely on one of the first two pairs. He will also get to play on one of the power play units, with the hope that he can help turn around what has long been a weak area for this team.

Q&A with Second City Hockey

A few weeks ago, I answered some questions about Seth Jones for our sister site, Second City Hockey. Site manager Dave Melton was kind enough to take time out of his holiday weekend to answer my questions about Boqvist:

What were your initial impressions of Adam Boqvist in his first two (partial) seasons in the NHL?

There’s a pretty good argument to be made that the Blackhawks rushed Boqvist to the NHL level, so don’t be alarmed when I say that he was a bit underwhelming. His first season had some especially rough moments and by the end of Chicago’s brief appearance in that postseason he was a healthy scratch. So much of that can be attributed to growing pains, though. Boqvist debuted at 19 and turned 21 last month — he still has a very high ceiling that can be reached which is why so many people in the Blackhawks fan base (the entire SCH staff included) were disappointed to see Chicago let him go in this trade. Early in Boqvist’s second season, he and roommate Alex DeBrincat missed some games while on the COVID list. When Boqvist returned, he looked like a much different player and started flashing some of the skills that made him a top 10 pick.

How was Boqvist deployed? More on offense or defense? Who were his most common partners? Did he get much special teams play?

Certainly more offensively oriented overall: Natural Stat Trick has his offensive zone start percentage at 65.05. Duncan Keith was his primary partner with 220:46 of ice time together and Calvin de Haan in second at 152:36. No one on the Blackhawks had positive possession numbers last season but Boqvist’s D pairings were consistently above the team rate, which suggests he was one of the better drivers of play all season (of course the cushier zone starts helped). Another thing to point out regarding Boqvist is that, whenever the Hawks were protecting a late lead in the third period, coach Jeremy Colliton would staple any D-men under the age of 25 to the bench and rely on his veterans (Keith, de Haan, Connor Murphy, Nikita Zadorov) to ride out the clock. It was an ... interesting strategy, considering the team had a stated goal of developing its younger players last season but Colliton refused to let young guys like Boqvist handle those bigger moments. So Boqvist will certainly could use more exposure to those high-leverage minutes, late in the third period of a one-goal game.

Boqvist saw virtually no PK time but was the team’s No. 1 defenseman in terms of ice time per game with the man advantage at 3:23. He was the point man for Chicago’s PP1 just about whenever he was in the lineup, save for a brief spell when the Blackhawks went with five forwards on the PP1 unit. He’s very good in that role of quarterbacking the power play. It’ll be interesting to see what Columbus does with its power play next season, given that you add Boqvist to a team that already has Zach Werenski.

What is his biggest strength? What is the biggest weakness that he needs to work on?

Boqvist does a lot of things well with the puck. He seems to have a knack for getting shots on net from the point and his passing steadily improved throughout the season, helping the Hawks get out of their own end and into the offensive zone whenever Boqvist was on the ice. He may not “wow” anyone with his skating ability and probably isn’t quite fast enough to be a one-man show through the neutral zone, but his feet also don’t hold him back.

Throughout last season, Boqvist’s defensive play started improving in subtle ways. For one, he was noticeably more physical along the boards. Not that he was throwing massive hits anywhere — don’t expect that from him — but he was routinely harassing puck carriers in the corner, using one hand to push players into the wall while keeping his other hand on his stick to pry the puck free. It looked very Duncan Keith-esque, because he made a career out of winning puck battles in that manner. I don’t mean to compare the defensive abilities of the two because Boqvist will likely never match Keith’s defensive prowess, but seeing Boqvist inherit a fundamental from a player of Keith’s stature was a positive sign. Boqvist can still get lost in the defensive zone at times and he will struggle against larger, more physical forecheckers. But that can be said about a lot of defenseman who are only 179 pounds.

Boqvist’s overall body and stick positioning in the defensive zone also improved throughout the season. One of the best examples I have of this came on an April 6 game against Dallas.

(Link to said play with the video set to auto-start at 2:15: https://youtu.be/fAEUbGCW7jM?t=135)

Boqvist keeps his stick in a passing lane and breaks up what seems like a rather harmless pass back to the point. But he breaks up that pass when Dallas’ other defenseman was jumping into the play, resulting in a 2-on-1 goal for the Blackhawks at the other end. It’s a quiet, subtle play by Boqvist but it’s indicative of a little thing he was doing better during his sophomore season.

If there’s one other concern with Boqvist, it’s his injury history. He missed the last seven games of the 2021 season with a broken wrist and missed three more games in April while in concussion protocol. The latter of those injuries is the bigger concern, because Boqvist also had concussion issues before he made the leap to the NHL.

Will he be missed in Chicago, or do Blackhawks fans feel like he was fair value to give up for a player like Jones? What is the overall impression of the trade?

It felt like Boqvist was starting to realize the potential of a top-10 pick last season and those of us on the SCH staff were very intrigued by what steps he was going to take in the next season. Should he blossom into the player that we started envisioning last season — he drew Erik Karlsson comps when drafted — it’s going to be infuriating. Chicago still hasn’t handed out a second contract to a defenseman it drafted since Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was selected in 2005. That’s a significant reason for the Blackhawks’ current state of affairs. Right now it feels like the Blackhawks gave up too much for Jones in that trade and that conclusion will only be reaffirmed if Boqvist continues his upward trajectory in Columbus. If Jones regains his No. 1 form and Boqvist fails to improve in Columbus, the hindsight on this deal could look much better than the present view does.

Highlights

As I searched YouTube for Boqvist highlights, I came across this one from a Chicago fan that was clearly distraught by the trade. Add in the “Careless Whisper” remix in the background and I couldn’t not share this: