Any analysis of Chicago Blackhawks first-round pick Adam Boqvist, who was taken eighth overall on Friday night, must come with the typical caveats. Yes, he’s still just 17 years old and still a good distance away from the NHL. And many of the highlights shown below are not featuring NHL-level opponents.
But now that those disclaimers are out of the way, prepare to get excited. Because the flurry of GIFs and videos and stats that follow will paint the picture of the rare, special and exciting young talent the Blackhawks just acquired.
Let’s start with the parts of Boqvist’s game that got him drafted eighth overall: his offense. He’s got as much offensive talent as some of the forwards in this draft. Just watch what he does when a defender tries to take away a shooting lane in this clip. Scroll down for the initial head fake, hang on for the toe drag at the end (GIF from HFBoards):
WATCH. THIS. PASS. (GIF from The Charging Buffalo)
From just inside his own blue line to the opposite blue line and over halfway across the width of the rink. That’s incredible, and it shows two major selling points of Boqvist’s game. First, is the physical ability to make the pass happen, which is difficult enough. But the second point here — and the more important one — is that he had the mental capacity to recognize it. Plays like this one are what separates high-end talent from the rest of the world: an ability to see things on the ice that the common player does not.
Watch him use a lightning-quick stick handle to open up a shooting lane here (GIF from The Charging Buffalo):
Yes, defense will be the concern with Boqvist. But here’s a sample of effective stick-checking against one Andrei Svechnikov, who went No. 2 overall on Friday night. And watch the effective breakout pass following the turnover he created (GIF from The Charging Buffalo):
Considering how much Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville values defensemen who can make that initial breakout pass out of the defensive zone (hey there, Trevor Daley), Boqvist appears to be the type of defenseman that could gain early approval from Quenneville, which is crucial for young players in this organization.
Just five seconds into this three-minute highlight reel, watch Boqvist serve as a one-man zone entry as he deftly maneuvers through three defenders and generates a scoring chance all by himself:
A player like that would look great running the Blackhawks power play.
The following video from the U18 World Juniors has a slew of impressive Boqvist moments: a wicked wrist shot at 0:06 for a goal after jumping in as the third man in the rush, a brilliant read of the play at 2:38 to pick off a pass and set up a teammate for a goal, a series of blocked shots that starts around 8:15 and multiple sequences throughout the video of Boqvist manning the point for Sweden:
If that wasn’t enough, here’s a 53-minute video that follows Boqvist’s every shift at the U18s:
There’s no denying the talent here: Boqvist is a special hockey player. And he’s still just a teenager. The road for him to reach the NHL has already been paved by countryman Erik Karlsson, one of the most-frequent NHL comparisons for Boqvist.
Here’s the best side-by-side comparison available of the two players. Karlsson turned 18 at the very end of this season (his birthday is on May 31) while Boqvist will turn 18 in about six weeks.
The numbers on the top belong to Karlsson. Boqvist is right in line with Karlsson’s near point-per-game average in Sweden’s top league and his numbers are roughly similar in Boqvist’s time representing Sweden internationally. This is why the Karlsson comparisons are so prevalent: it’s not just the way Boqvist plays the game, it’s the production, too.
Karlsson made his NHL debut at the age of 19, was sent back to the AHL after nine games, returned to the NHL one month later and has not returned since. Should Boqvist follow the same path, he’d be a full-time member of the Blackhawks by Christmas in 2019.
No pressure, kid.