Adam Boqvist finished his first Ontario Hockey League season on a hell of a run.
He scored 10 goals in 11 playoff games to share the lead among all players through two rounds, to be exact.
Before we get there, let’s rewind about 10 months to when the Blackhawks selected the Swedish defenseman with the eighth overall pick at the 2018 NHL Draft. He was advertised as a dynamic offensive player with room to grow in his own end, and a commitment was soon made with the OHL’s London Knights to serve as Boqvist’s first North American landing spot.
Boqvist got off to a bit of a slow start for the Knights, but we’ll chalk that up to an 18-year-old having uprooted his life to play hockey with new teammates on a different ice surface in an unfamiliar system. His numbers at the end of the regular season tell us he settled in just fine.
Goals: 20 (2nd among defensemen)
Primary Assists: 22 (9th among defensemen)
Primary Points: 42 (5th among defensemen)
Total Points: 60 (6th among defensemen)
Lest we assume Boqvist’s numbers were propped up by prime power-play assignments, it should be noted that 35 of his points came in 5-on-5 play, including 10 goals and 12 primary assists. That ranks him in the top five among players at his position in those categories.
Overall, 42 of his 60 points were primary in nature, and his 0.78 primary points per game ranked him third behind only teammate Evan Bouchard and Sean Durzi. Both of those players are also 2018 draft picks; Bouchard went 10th overall to the Oilers (sad!) and Durzi was picked 52nd overall by the Maple Leafs, but his rights were traded to the Kings in the Jake Muzzin deal.
Boqvist, therefore, was one of the OHL’s top offensive defensemen this season, an impressive feat for a first-year player in North America.
In the playoffs, he stepped up his goal scoring in a big way. He finished the postseason in a tie for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds (11 games for the Knights); no other defensemen had more than six, and only Guelph’s Nick Suzuki could match that scoring prowess.
The Knights fell prey to a reverse sweep at the hands of the Storm, and Boqvist finished with 13 points in 11 games for a 1.18 points-per-game average.
At the Knights’ end-of-the-year banquet, Boqvist and Bouchard shared the Dick Hunter Play-Off Performer of the Year Award, and Boqvist also took home the team’s Sportsmanship and Ability Award, which speaks well to his character off the ice.
One big aspect of Boqvist’s overall development with the Knights this season was being able to work closely with former Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who served as the young defenseman’s mentor.
A video published recently by the Blackhawks shows just how special this relationship has become for both:
As you hear Campbell say, no one is worried about Boqvist’s offense. But as has been written here in the past, there are questions about his defensive play, and that could mean another season in the OHL.
The thing is, Boqvist is eligible to jump right to the AHL after one season of junior he was drafted by the NHL club out of Sweden and prior to his OHL debut.
Bouchard will more than likely be playing next season in Edmonton, meaning Boqvist would be called upon to lead from the back end as the de facto No. 1 defenseman.
It will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks want to see how he handles that scenario before sending him to the pros, or if he’s able to impress enough in the summer and training camp to earn a spot at the AHL or even NHL level as early as next season.
Again, he’s got nothing to prove offensively. and his playoff performance tells us he can more than hang on the big stage. The question remains whether he can sufficiently contain the opposition at the pro level. If the Blackhawks think he needs more work and want him to get a bit more experience at the junior level without a talent like Bouchard as a buffer, he could very well be back with the Knights next season.
Boqvist was a treat to watch this season, of that there is no doubt. Snagging him with the eighth pick could end up looking like a steal for general manager Stan Bowman.