Minnesota Gophers’ Josefin Bouveng Headlines NCAA Rookies

Arguably the top women’s ice hockey conference in the NCAA, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) is about to showcase one of the world’s best hockey players. Josefin Bouveng is finally crossing the pond to play in North America.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (Eric Miller/Gopher Athletics)

How do you better a program that has lost only 57 games out of 918 and won seven national championships? Gophers head coach Brad Frost didn’t have to ask himself that at the end of his 15th season at the University of Minnesota. He already announced the answer on Jan. 24 when he introduced Bouveng among the newest class of Gophers for the 2022-23 season.

Bouveng Has An Invisible Ceiling

Since playing her first professional game at age 16, the 21-year-old native of Uppsala, Sweden, has developed into an offensive dynamo in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League (SDHL). Her 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons were nothing short of incredible. At ages 19 and 20, she racked up 48 goals in just 64 games for powerhouse Brynäs IF in the regular season. In the playoffs over the past two seasons, she’s posted 20 goals in 17 games, including leading all skaters in points for the 2020-21 playoffs.

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While 20 goals in 17 games stands out, posting back-to-back, 24-goal regular seasons is no small feat in Sweden; it’s been done only 62 times in the last 10 years and in only three instances was the player a teenager. She is also the only teenager in the 10-year period to score at least 21 goals. Suffice to say, she’s pretty good at hockey.

Her development saw a significant jump when she moved from Djurgårdens IF to Brynäs IF and was exposed to the high-IQ hockey minds of Lara Stalder and Katerina Mrazova. From 2020-21 to 2021-22, Bouveng saw her points-per-game rate increase from 1.31 to 1.64 and her goals per game increase to 0.857 from 0.667. Adjusting the areas she traveled and locations she released from (in all situations) she shot 16.55 percent and 21.65 percent, respectively.

Lara Stalder
University of Minnesota-Duluth forward Lara Stalder. Photo: UMD Athletics

In the past three SDHL seasons, only three players have scored at least 20 goals and held a goals-per-game average of at least 0.85: Stalder, Kennedy Marchment, and Bouveng. Of the 62 occurrences of a 20-goal season in the past 10 years, this statistical combination has been achieved a mere 20 times by only nine different players. Had she matched her 36-game total from the previous season, she was on pace to score 30 goals, something both Stalder and Marchment did.

The Transition to North American Hockey

There is normally an adjustment period when players transition from the international ice size to the North American rinks, but Bouveng’s skill level and awareness, combined with where she’s going, will minimize the effect that has on her performance in 2022-23.

She’s coming to a University of Minnesota program that has been one of the best NCAA programs in women’s ice hockey history. They routinely fill their roster with star players, including adding rookies Nelli Laitinen and Madison Kaiser — two of the top teenage players in the world — in addition to Bouveng for the 2022-23 season. The Swedish superstar should seamlessly integrate into the high-energy offense and immediately pay big dividends on the scoresheet. 

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It’s hard to score goals in any league; and each league has a certain goal target that intrigues the top snipers more than others. In the SDHL and NCAA there are arguments for both 25- and 30-goal seasons being set as a bar for the top-tier scorers. If she continues the rate at which she scores goals — even at her recent two-year average of 0.762 — she would be on pace to score 30 goals over a 40-game NCAA season. It’s easier said than done, though, considering scoring 30 goals in a season has been done only 10 times in the last five full seasons of NCAA play. Five of those were in the 2017-2018 season.

Her point production could best that of international sensation Stalder when she came to North America to play for Minnesota-Duluth at age 20. Bouveng has already discovered scoring consistency at a high level, whereas Stalder’s goal renaissance didn’t begin until her third and fourth years in the NCAA. It’s a lofty comparison, but one that Bouveng has to the tools to live up to.

Expectations will be high after back-to-back seasons scoring north of a point-per-game in Europe, but high expectations and Bouveng are about to become commonplace in the hockey world. Whichever way the lines shake out for coach Frost and the Gophers, Bouveng is an elite hockey player that’s going to make huge waves in the NCAA as early as her rookie season.

*stats from eliteprospects.com and stats.swehockey.se

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