Sweden is a small country.
This is especially in comparison to other top hockey nations, such as Canada, the United States, and Russia. Nevertheless, it has proven to be a powerhouse for producing top hockey talent from every single nook and cranny of its unique geography. Almost three hours northwest of its capital, Stockholm, sits the town of Falun. Where a young Adam Boqvist took his first steps.
It’s an old mining town that’s been active since the 13th Century. It’s known for a copper mine collapse in 1687, which legend has it left none killed because it happened on one of only two days off that workers were allowed for the year.
From a hockey standpoint, it’s known for producing defenseman Tomas Jonsson, an offensive defenseman who put up a respectable 344 points through 552 games playing for the New York Islanders in the 1980s.
Jonsson had a career filled with accolades, tagging on to the final two years of the Islanders four-peat Stanley Cup-winning run, was a two-time Olympian, and was in the first three of only 29 players to be a part of the Triple Gold Club – which is for players who have won a Stanley Cup, a World Championship, and an Olympic Gold Medal.
While Jonsson is the best hockey talent Falun has produced to date, he could soon be overtaken by Boqvist, another offensive defenseman who has cracked his way into the world’s premier league and whose ceiling is sky high.
Boqvist found himself in skates by age three. The son of a painter dad and a teacher mom, Adam and his older brother Jesper – now of the New Jersey Devils – have turned themselves into supreme hockey talents. Adam says having dyslexia led him to not enjoy his time at school, at least academically. But despite his learning disability, he didn’t let it stop him from getting to where he wanted to be.
“The King of Sweden has it, so I can have it too.”Boqvist said of his dyslexia to Postmedia in an interview in 2018 (from ‘Adam Boqvist gives Sweden a second star defenceman in the NHL draft,’ Toronto Sun, 06/11/18)
The Boqvist boys turned into elite players early on. Jesper set the path that Adam would follow two years behind, playing minor hockey with Hedemora, a town 45 minutes from Falun, and then to the larger market Brynas, a suburb of Gavle, a town with teams from major junior up to a team in Sweden’s top league.
The Player and Being Drafted
Boqvist is a fascinating player who brings a boatload of puck-moving ability and hands as smooth as silk. He’s an excellent skater with a superb first pass out of the zone and can seal the deal with a rocket of a shot. His only drawbacks surrounded some mistakes in the defensive zone, which is far from uncommon for a young defender.
His play drew comparisons to many, including fellow Swede and multiple Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, who Boqvist idolized. At 5-foot-11, his size may have been seen as a detriment a few years earlier, but as the game trended towards smaller and faster frames, Boqvist seemed to hit the draft floor at the right time.
“He’s made for today’s game. He’s a great skater, has excellent puck skills, poise and vision. He transports and manages the puck well. He’s the favoured size for a lot of people right now, the kind of guy that would have been overlooked before.”An anonymous scout said of Boqvist to The Hockey News before the 2018 Draft (from ‘Top 100 Prospects,’ The Hockey News, 05/31/18).
As is normal for a draft-eligible European, Boqvist bounced around a few different teams through his draft year. He saw time with Brynas IF on their J20 SuperElit squad, equivalent to major junior, he also spent some time playing against men. He was loaned to Almtuna IS in the Allsvenskan tier-two Swedish league and saw 15 games with Brynas in the top Swedish league.
His most success came in the J20 SuperElit league, where he posted 24 points in 25 games and five points in three playoff games. Other successes were seen in international competition, where he really drew the eyes of scouts, putting up eight points in five games at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup.
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Depending on which rankings you looked at, Boqvist was considered the second or third best defenseman available in the 2018 NHL draft, behind consensus number one pick Rasmus Dahlin and soon-to-be Vancouver Canucks Calder Trophy runner-up Quinn Hughes.
In the end, he slipped to eighth overall, one pick behind Hughes, and was taken by the Chicago Blackhawks.
To North America
After the draft, Blackhawks brass thought he could use a season in Canadian major junior to get used to the smaller ice surface before jumping to the American Hockey League (AHL). Boqvist’s rights were held by the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, so that’s where he ended up.
The Knights are widely considered one of the top junior hockey programs for player development in North America. The Blackhawks had a history with the organization as it produced star forward Patrick Kane. The Blue Jackets franchise leader in almost every category, Rick Nash, was also drafted out of London. Other players Columbus has drafted from the Knights over the years are Marc Methot (2003), Steve Mason (2006), Josh Anderson (2012), and Liam Foudy (2018).
The London squad was stacked with talent in 2018-19, boasting talents like Connor McMichael, Evan Bouchard, Alec Regula, Alex Formenton, and more – along with Foudy and Boqvist. They finished first in their conference and second in league standings, winning 46 of 68 games.
Boqvist showed his offensive prowess in the Forest City, scoring over a point-per-game with 20-goals and 60-points in 54 games – paired mostly with Bouchard. In the playoffs, he came alive, scoring 10 goals in 11 games in a seven-game, second-round loss to the eventual champion Guelph Storm.
Boqvist showed that his speed, passing, and overall puck-handling prowess translated to the North American game. The question was, would it be enough to make Stan Bowman and company give him a spot on Chicago’s opening night roster?
After Boqvist’s year in London, it seemed as though he had sufficiently proved to Blackhawks management that he was accustomed to the smaller rink and all that came with it. But his training camp performance, plus a logjam at the defensive position, kept him off the opening night roster and relegated him to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.
He played well in his first stint with Rockford, scoring a goal and had a +1 goal differential through six games. An injury to Blackhawks’ key defenseman Connor Murphy gave Boqvist his first call-up in mid-October.
In his first stint, he saw limited minutes, averaging only 14:27 minutes through six games. However, in just his second game, he scored his first career goal against the Anaheim Ducks.
He was called up again only a month later and has stuck in the league since. Over his two seasons in Chicago, Boqvist earned 76 games of experience, with most of it paired with future Hall-of-Famer Duncan Keith.
Boqvist also proved himself as a good piece in the locker room and integrated into the team’s core well. You would be hard-pressed to find a photo of Blackhawks players out and about either in the community or at an event without him in there.
In his last season with the team, he had a bump in offensive production, scoring 16 points through 35 games, which over an 82 game season projects to 37 points. A decent showing for a 20-year-old defenseman and a significant uptick from his 26 projected points from the year beforehand.
Seth Jones was a leader of the Columbus blue line since coming over from Nashville as a youngster in a trade in 2016. He signed a six-year pact, which brought him to unrestricted free agency (UFA).
Unlike other Blue Jackets UFAs – looking at you Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky – Jones gave Columbus the heads up that he wasn’t planning on re-signing with the team a year in advance. Which put the team in a precarious situation and prompted a lot of speculation on if – or when – Jones was going to be traded.
Then came Draft Day 2021.
As my esteemed colleague, Mark Scheig, wrote earlier this week, the Blue Jackets 2021 Draft night will go down as one of the best days in franchise history. After many suitors, Jones wound up headed to Chicago along with a first-round pick for a 2021 and 2022 first-round pick, a 2021 second-round pick, and Boqvist.
“[Boqvist] was eighth overall in the draft and a very talented player who can run a powerplay. That’s something that even with the two great defensemen that we had… we haven’t had a very great powerplay. He’s going to get a great chance to excel in that role… We’re adding a guy, a right-handed shot, that can pass the puck, make the seam pass, has a good shot from the point and he’s always had great stats… We’re excited.”Jarmo Kekalainen, Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager, on Boqvist after the trade. (from ‘Michael Arace: Kekalainen points in a certain direction and begins sprinting that way,’ Columbus Dispatch, 07/24/2021)
Boqvist is the latest of a long line of casualties in Stan Bowman’s everlasting quest to keep the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup window open for as long as possible. From 2008 to 2018, the Blackhawks either traded away or failed to sign all of their first-round picks before they were able to establish themselves as NHL players.
He joins a list of former Blackhawks picks highlighted by Kevin Hayes, Phil Danault, Teuvo Teravainen, Nick Schmaltz, and Henri Jokiharju – who now all play key roles in their respective organizations.
Boqvist has as much – if not more – talent than anyone else on that list. He has a strong chance to be the latest Blackhawk castaway to make Hawks fans cringe in hindsight and the Blue Jackets Fifth Line is truly hoping that to be the case.
Writer covering Columbus Blue Jackets.
Also a radio personality and reporter currently based on Vancouver Island.