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‘I want to play good defense every shift’: Adam Boqvist focused on gap control in AHL

Rockford assistant Anders Sorensen says “he’s picked up his defensive side of his game vastly since the start of the year.”

Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs

Adam Boqvist knows the narrative.

The Blackhawks prospect is an offensive-minded defenseman that needs to improve his play in the defensive zone. But he doesn’t want it that way. He wants to be a more all-around defenseman now.

Boqvist, who was selected eight overall in the 2018 NHL draft, spent the first month of his professional career with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL working with player development coach Brian Campbell and Rockford assistant Anders Sorensen.

“It’s been huge for me to have those guys around me,” Boqvist said Wednesday night after the IceHogs’ 6-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage. “I’m watching video with those guys, and Soupy was in the NHL for a long time so he knows what to do out there.

“I’m just trying to talk to him as much I can, take feedback and learn. Learn so I can get up there.”

The Blackhawks will find out soon how much Boqvist has learned after they called him up to the NHL on Thursday morning. Some have viewed his call up as a bit premature, but Sorensen doesn’t see it that way given what the 19-year-old can bring to the Blackhawks.

“He’s got a lot of skating ability and hockey instincts that should translate to that level,” Sorensen said by phone Thursday afternoon. “I don’t ever know if there’s a right or wrong time to call him up. Parts of his game are ready for it so it’s time to see what he’s got.

“He’s progressing well and it is all part of his learning curve. We’ve talked about how he can be a better defender and using his hockey sense and skating. We’ve gone over video with him. He’s got some learning to do, but all young guys do. He’s picked up his defensive side of his game vastly since the start of the year.”

The 5-foot-11, 179-pound Boqvist was quick to answer what his biggest takeaway was after playing six AHL games.

“How to (play) defense against men,” Boqvist said. “That’s the biggest learning thing I have to improve if I want to stay up (in the NHL).”

Blackhawks player development coach Brian Campbell stands behind the bench alongside Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King and Anders Sorensen on Oct. 14, 2019, at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, Illinois.
Brad Repplinger/Rockford IceHogs

Even though Campbell’s official title is player development coach he’s been behind the bench as an unofficial assistant with Sorensen and Rockford head coach Derek King. It’s something Sorensen did at times in that same role prior to being promoted to assistant last November. Campbell’s in-game reminders have been valuable to Boqvist’s growth.

“If I need better gap control (Campbell) maybe comes to me and just reminds me,” Boqvist said. “It’s small stuff that’s good for me to get in my head. I want to play good defense every shift and play out there to help my teammates.”

King has kept Boqvist on the right side and paired him with three different left-handed partners: Philip Holm, Dennis Gilbert and Ian McCoshen. Boqvist said he found communicating with Holm the easiest given they are both Swedes and he knew Gilbert from this summer and the NHL Prospect tournament in Traverse City. Even though they only played three games together, Boqvist felt he played “pretty well” with McCoshen. Sorensen believes deploying Boqvist on the right side with a dependable partner will lead to the most success.

“Adam obviously has offensive upside and he’s going to join the rush,” Soresen said. “When he plays with a lefty that helps his game since he likes to be on the right side. Having a steady influence like that is helpful.”

And while there’s a strong focus on improving his defensive game, Boqvist and the coaching staff don’t want to take away from his tantalizing offensive potential. He tallied 20 goals and 60 points in 54 regular-season games last season with the London Knights in the OHL then added 10 goals and 13 points in 11 playoff games.

Boqvist didn’t score until his sixth AHL game of the season with Rockford, netting a power play goal with a wrister from the right faceoff dot.

“The points haven’t come for me yet, but the first goal is out of the way now so maybe some more will start to come,” Boqvist said. “It’s way different than juniors to play (in the AHL) and preseason games up in Chicago as well. It’s a learning experience for me, and I think I’m going in the right direction.”

And that direction is straight to the NHL as soon as Saturday against the Kings in Los Angeles.

More prospect updates

Sorensen also provided insight on left-handed defensemen prospects Nicolas Beaudin and Chad Krys. Unlike Boqvist, both players have played on their off side at least once this season due to the abundance of left-handed shots in Rockford.

Beaudin, a 2018 first rounder, picked up his first pro point with a secondary assist on Boqvist’s goal Wednesday. Beaudin has a plus-1 rating and his eight penalty minutes are tied for third on the team in seven games.

On Beaudin: His last couple games have been his best games. He’s a young d-man and he’s used to playing a lot of minutes like any guy coming from juniors. He’s learning to defend against bigger and stronger guys. He’s definitely been a positive the last couple games with his play with and without the puck.

Krys, a 2016 second rounder, logged four assists and was a minus-4 in nine AHL games after he left Boston University a year early and signed his entry-level contract. He has two helpers and has severed one minor penalty in five games this season.

On Krys: We know what he can do having had him a little bit last season. We’d still like to get him up a bit into the play more out of the zone where he can play well. That part of it is finding the right partner for him, which will take time to see who works with who. I like where his game is going.