Second City Hockey’s 2019-20 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2019. The rankings are determined by a composite score from six SCH writers and more than 70 readers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. The six SCH writers will make their ballots public after the series is completed.
The lasting impression left by Adam Boqvist’s rookie OHL season is formed by the 10 goals he scored in 11 playoff games.
It was an incredible run cut short by a reverse sweep at the hands of the eventual league champion Guelph Storm, an offensive outburst that left him tied for the league lead in playoff goals through two rounds of the postseason. Only Guelph’s Dmitri Samarukov would eventually match that goal total among players at his position, and it took the Russian 24 games to do so.
One can’t help but wonder how big Boqvist’s legend could have grown if the top-seeded London Knights hadn’t coughed up that 3-0 series lead.
At the Knights’ end-of-the-year banquet, Boqvist and Edmonton Oilers prospect Evan 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.
Let’s kick it back to the regular season for a moment. Boqvist got off to a bit of a slow start, which was perhaps to be expected for a young man who had recently uprooted his life to move across the Atlantic to play hockey under new coaches and 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)
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 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.
One big aspect of Boqvist’s overall development with the Knights this season was being able to work closely with former Blackhawks defenseman and current player development coach Brian Campbell, who served as the young defenseman’s mentor.
Earlier in August, Campbell said it’s possible Boqvist could crack the NHL roster out of training camp, but a failure to do so should not be seen as a red flag.
”Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp,” Campbell said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.
“Definitely, we know his skill level is there and I think he’s taken a huge step in the last year in preparing himself and knowing how to prepare as a pro player now,” Campbell continued. “There’s a lot of great things there, and hopefully he does do that, but for me, I just don’t want to put too much on him right now. He’s turning 19 soon so he’s still a really young kid and it’s a tough position to play at a pro level ... Hopefully he can do some great things, but if he doesn’t, then that’s OK too.”
Here’s more from Campbell on that relationship, followed by some Boqvist highlights:
Seeing that Boqvist isn’t bound to the OHL as a European-born skater, he can be assigned to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs this season as a 19-year-old. It’s a likely landing spot, as it’s no secret his defensive game could use some seasoning and it may not be prudent to throw him into the NHL without some pro experience under his belt.
Boqvist, however, is a strong possession player who can push the puck up the ice, not to mention carry it all the way up and into the net all by himself.
It would not be surprising to see him get some time with the Blackhawks to start the season, at the very least. If he’s not ready, send him down. Whether it’s this season or next, he’s going to be a stud for this team, there's no question about it.
Is Adam Boqvist ranked too low, just right or too high?
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* OHL stats courtesy of Elite Prospects, Pick224 and OHL Stats