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Adam Boqvist quick to learn OHL game, excelling with London Knights

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Boqvist is buying into London’s defensive strategies to play a better 200-foot game.

London Knights v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Adam Boqvist needs no introduction to Blackhawks fans by now, nor hopefully do I after racking up a few columns on fellow prospect MacKenzie Entwistle. But since this is my first similar column about the young defenseman, let’s set the table a bit.

Boqvist’s season so far

Boqvist is an 18-year-old Swedish-born defenseman who was selected eighth overall by Chicago at the 2018 NHL Draft, and who is currently honing his game with the OHL’s London Knights.

He made the move to the Southern Ontario city prior to the beginning of this season after coming up through the Swedish system, and to say the transition has been relatively smooth would be an understatement, as attested to by Tony Carr from Dobber Prospects.

Boqvist has not only adjusted to hockey in North America he is now dominating it. After a slow start (by his standards) he has been nothing short of spectacular, being held pointless in only five of 21 games since returning from the (World Junior Championship) in January. With the London Knights sitting in first place in the OHL’s Western Conference, it is a safe bet that Boqvist will see some playoff hockey, adding another element to his development.

Here’s a look at Boqvist’s numbers to date.

Through 47 games, he’s recorded 17 goals and 37 assists for a total of 54 points. That ranks him fifth among OHL defensemen in terms of points and points per game (1.15).

Twenty-one of his 37 assists have been primary in nature, though, bumping him to third in primary points per game (0.81) behind London teammate Evan Bouchard (0.89) and the Guelph Storm’s Sean Durzi (0.83.) Both of those players are also 2018 draft picks; Bouchard went 10th overall to the Oilers (poor guy), and Durzi was picked 52nd overall by the Maple Leafs, but his rights have since been traded to the Kings in the Jake Muzzin deal.

And let’s not think Boqvist is being propped up by power-play production. He’s recorded nine goals and 24 assists at 5-on-5, and those 33 points rank him third among all players at his position.

Again, 21 of those points are primary in nature, and his 0.45 primary points per game average in 5-on-5 play slots him only slightly behind Durzi (0.49) and Bouchard (0.46), and ahead of Sharks prospect Ryan Merkley (0.41), who was selected 21st overall in 2018.

Boqvist is one of the OHL’s top offensive defensemen this season, an impressive feat for a first-year player in North America.

How Boqvist can improve

That’s not to say there haven’t been some bumps along the way. Boqvist’s play in his own zone has always been tabbed as a weakness, and it took him a bit to adjust to the smaller ice surfaces and quicker style of play. But he’s definitely showing signs of growth, according to Knights assistant coach Dylan Hunter.

“When he got drafted everybody could see his offensive instincts were outstanding,” Hunter said recently in the London Free Press. “He’s really bought into our defensive strategies and how to be a defenseman and play that 200-foot game. He’s done a really good job of it.”

Boqvist kind of lives and dies on his speed and puck handling skills, seeing as he clocks in at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds. He knows Chicago is big on his skill set, but in order to crack the Blackhawks’ lineup, he’ll need to add some beef.

“I’m pretty small, so I have to work harder than the other guys if I want to be in the NHL one day,” Boqvist admitted. “I want to feel fresh for the games, but still I have to work out.”

But what Boqvist lacks in size, he makes up for in raw talent and hockey smarts, and those attributes are helping him rise above his OHL counterparts.

“Those are his gifts,” Hunter said. “That’s what he got drafted on. . . . A lot of that is just natural. The biggest thing he has to work on is just getting into the gym and working out, which is something you can just commit to. It’s somewhat easier to do than learning to be offensive.”

What’s next for Boqvist and the Knights?

After 60 games, the Knights sit first in the OHL’s Western Conference with 89 points, four back of the league-leading Ottawa 67s. Those clubs seem destined to meet in the league final.

London can’t get too comfy atop the conference standings, though, as the Saginaw Spirit are only four points back, and the Sault Ste. Marie Grehounds and Guelph Storm also field pretty strong rosters out West.

At any rate, while they’re not the flat out favorites, the Knights are always a league powerhouse and Boqvist could very well help London go on a very deep playoff run this spring, with a possible an appearance in the Memorial Cup to boot.

His size may preclude him from making a quick jump to the NHL, but if he’s not a member of the Blackhawks next season, it certainly won’t be due to a lack of skill.

Upcoming schedule:

Friday, March 1 @ Kitchener Rangers
Saturday, March 2 @ Hamilton Bulldogs
Sunday, March 3 @ Erie Otters

Statistical information courtesy: http://prospect-stats.com/OHL/2018-19/defense/