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Adam Boqvist continues to progress but still has room to grow

Boqvist has shown the ability to improve in multiple ways in a shorter NHL season than his original

NHL: APR 21 Predators at Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Adam Boqvist skates with the puck in action during a game between the Predators and Blackhawks
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Adam Boqvist has yet to play a full NHL season.

He’s currently sitting at 76 games between his two seasons in the NHL, having played half of the games in 2019-20 and missing a large chunk of time in 2021 while in COVID-19 protocols.

Yet there are signs that when Boqvist is playing more than 38 games per season, he can be an impact player. His 2021 season was better than his rookie effort in some ways and showed room to grow in others.

Boqvist bettered his possession stats from ‘19-20 to ‘21, with his shot share increasing from 46.13 to 48.87 and his high-danger chance share moving from 44.92 up to 46.31. However, Boqvist’s offensive zone start percentage also increased in his second season, up to 65.05 in ‘21 after being at 57.26 in ‘19-20.

Boqvist’s offensive prowess showed more in 2021. He had a higher rate of points per 60 minutes and generated more high-danger attempts per 60 (0.91, up from 0.54), all while drawing more penalties (1.11 per 60, up from 0.9). In other words: Boqvist remains very good on offense, something the Blackhawks need to get more of from their defensemen.

Boqvist also continues to be pretty good at moving the puck, a mobile defenseman on a team where those are rare. Of the Blackhawks’ top six defensemen in terms of time on ice this season — Boqvist, Duncan Keith, Connor Murphy, Nikita Zadorov, Calvin de Haan and Ian Mitchell — Boqvist is one of the better skating defensemen.

Yet, Boqvist’s scoring did take a step back this season. His goals per 60 fell from 0.36 to 0.2 and his primary assists fell from 0.45 to 0.2 per 60. That contributed to his fall from 5.5 expected offensive goals above replacement to 0.8, a part of an overall fall from 4.3 xGAR to 2.

There are two important areas where Boqvist improved in the 2021 season, though: his power-play numbers improved and his defensive side vastly improved. The charts below detail some of Boqvist’s stats from the ‘19-20 season (top) and last season. Although the goals and expected goals rates went down, there was also a noticeable decrease in the rate of goals and expected goals generated by opponents when Boqvist was on the ice:

Boqvist contributed (meaning he scored the goal or tallied an assist) on 57.14 percent of the goals scored with him on ice on the power play, a rise from 28.57 percent in 19-20. Boqvist becoming a much more prominent presence on the power play is important for the Blackhawks going forward. Duncan Keith will continue to age and as he does so, Boqvist will need to step into his place on the first unit.

Boqvist also improved defensively, as he allowed fewer expected goals, high-danger chances and shots against in 2021. His expected defensive GAR also went from minus-2.8 to minus-0.3. While that again may be a result of his offensive deployment, that progress is still worth noting and something that could continue into the future. Boqvist also made fewer mistakes, going from 2.35 giveaways per 60 in ‘19-20 to 2.12 in ‘21.

To continue to progress, Boqvist may need a different partner. Boqvist with Keith doesn’t feel successful 76 games in, and the two defensemen Boqvist was best with were Erik Gustafsson (mainly because the duo only played 28 minutes in a very offensive role) and de Haan, who doesn’t feel like a long-term member of the Blackhawks. Boqvist and de Haan controlled quality very well in their 152:36, and Boqvist’s second most frequent pairing behind Boqvist and Keith (220:46).

Getting Boqvist a defensively oriented partner who’s also an adept skater could help him take that next step forward. There are players like Alec Regula — who played with Boqvist’s junior London Knights team — in the system and players like Alec Martinez — who played very well with Shea Theodore, an offensively-oriented defenseman like Boqvist — potentially available on the free-agent market.

Boqvist has continued to impress offensively and his defense — both metrically and by the eye test — took a step forward in ‘21. There is continued room to grow for Boqvist, but again, he has yet to play a full 82 games. Giving him somebody he can learn from as his partner would help, and giving him more than 16:59 per game would also likely aid in his development.

Boqvist is the first of a class of young defensemen coming for the Blackhawks, and his continued growth next season will do nothing but good for the team.