What To Expect From Jesper Boqvist This Season

August 23, 2019 - Devils Army Blog - View Full Article

When the New Jersey Devils hit the ice for the 2019-20 season, theyíre going to have more than their fair share of new faces joining the team. Itís hard to imagine a time in franchise history when the roster of the franchise was changed so much for the better in one offseason. While the ice was thawed at Prudential Center, the team welcomed the likes of first overall pick Jack Hughes, All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban, as well as international star Nikita Gusev.

Another player thought to be making his long-awaited Devils’ debut this season is Jesper Boqvist. The Swedish center was selected in the 2017 Entry Draft, the Devils’ second pick after the first overall selection of Nico Hischier, and has been a prized prospect in their pipeline since then. Boqvist signed an entry-level deal with the team in June of this past year, in anticipation of his North American arrival.

While even the most casual of Devils’ fans know the name Jesper Boqvist and know that heís going to be good, most donít know much more about him. Thatís the blessing and the curse of hockey being a global sport. The good is that itís a sport participated in and enjoyed by different cultures around the world, but the bad being that it is difficult to keep track of international prospects. Compare that to football, where before a player is drafted by the Giants or Jets, thereís a plethora of clips from their playing career in the NCAA or combine to show. But the Swedish Hockey League, not so much.

If Devils’ fans ever saw Boqvist anywhere, it most likely would have been during the 2018 World Junior Championship when his team captured a silver medal. Still, that was over a year ago and unless you have the NHL Network you probably didnít have coverage. For those Devils’ fans who havenít been keeping dibs on Boqvist while he was in Europe, hereís what you can expect when he makes his anticipated Devils’ debut in 2019.

Boqvist brings some high-end offensive skill

A Little Review On Boqvist

Unfortunately for me, I havenít spent much of the past two seasons watching Boqvist. But thanks to the plethora of readily available YouTube videos, as well as scouting reports on Boqvist, Iíve been able to keep myself up to speed. If anyone wants to see this kid in action for themselves, follow the links I embedded to see some of Boqvistís best work.

Heís a 20-year-old Swedish Center. His size of 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds donít necessarily look NHL ready, but more on that later. Since 2017, heís played for Brynas IF against players far older than him and likely to the competition heíd face in the NHL. Being a hockey player runs in his family, as his younger brother Adam was a 2018 draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Hands down what appears to be Boqvistís greatest strength is his skating. Scouts rave about how he moves on the ice with his manager at Brynas likening him to ďa pantherĒ on the ice. Granted, Boqvistís impressive skating comes on the much larger international ice rinks. Weíll have to have a wait and see on how playing on smaller NHL regulation ice affects his movement and game, but he should be fine.

Boqvist also has an undersized frame for todayís NHL. While his slim figure might be suited for the European style of the game, in the rough and tumble style of the North American game, heís going to need to build some muscles and have linemates willing to protect him. To his credit, Boqvist admitted he spent this past summer trying to bulk up.

Another strength noticed by scouts and fans alike to Boqvist is his ability to get off shots and score when the front of the net is crowded. In addition to protecting Hughes, people thought the Devils signed Wayne Simmonds to keep the front of the net clear. Meanwhile, a crowded net is no problem for Jesper Boqvist. In fact, thatís where he does some of his best work.

Will He Spend time In The AHL?

Due to the NHLís agreement with the IIHF, Boqvist canít be sent to the AHL. For the young forward, itís either the NHL or going back to his native Sweden for another season at Brynas IF. Thatís a decision that will be made fairly quickly for Shero and company.

Barring a catastrophic NHL debut, I doubt Boqvist will be sent back overseas, and neither should you. The Devils willingness to offer him the contract they did shows a determination that they believe heís ready to take the next step forward. As with any young player, there will be growing pains, so expect that. But just like how they say sharks are born swimming, Boqvist is going to have no choice but to begin swimming in the big show.

Top Six or Bottom Six?

Early predictions on Boqvist had him slotted as a top-nine forward. His impressive performance since then has had him slightly upgraded to a top-six role. Just because that appears to be his ceiling, donít expect him to be there opening night.

Boqvist is going to start on the Devils’ bottom-six for two reasons. First, the top six is simply too crowded. Thereís already the spots reserved for Hischier, Hall, Palmieri, Hughes, and Bratt. While that might look like there are two open spots, those will most likely be filled by the likes of Nikita Gusev and Wayne Simmonds. While Simmonds might not provide top six point production, I canít see any reason he wouldnít be paired with Hughes to provide protection for the undersized youngster. While Gusev has yet to prove himself as well, his age and experience in a higher league give him the advantage over the younger Boqvist.

MANNHEIM, GERMANY – MAY 07: Jack Hughes of USA (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

Second, the Devils have a recent, and smart, trend of limiting younger player limits to get them accustomed to the NHL. NJ.com pointed to the example of Hischier beginning his rookie season on the second line, even though he was a highly touted first overall pick. While he might not be on the top line, he should see a good amount of power-play minutes as well.

If I had to take an immediate guess, Iíd imagine that Boqvist would end up on the same line as Miles Wood. Just like how Hughes might need Simmonds to protect him, Boqvist needs someone to protect his still undersized 20-year-old frame as well. Wood has shown he can have bits of an enforcer and physical player in him, and also resides in the Devils’ bottom six.

Forward Miles Wood tallied a career-high 19 goals last season. -Getty Images

Just because I donít expect Boqvist to begin the season on the top two lines doesnít mean I donít think we wonít see him there eventually. If someone on the top six gets injured, Boqvist is more than a worthy candidate for an internal promotion. Perhaps he will also find chemistry with his former teammate, Jesper Bratt, to form a duo that John Hynes wants to keep together. Point being, Boqvist wonít be in the top six until the Devils have a reason to put him in the top six.

Change Of Positions

As I explained before, the Devils’ top six is crowded. Also crowded is the Devils roster full of center men. In addition to the pair of first overall picks Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, thereís also the underrated defensive forward Travis Zajac, as well as the still unsigned restricted free agent Pavel Zacha.

While Boqvist is going to have to deal with his fair share of adjustments to the NHL as it is, Hynes and his coaching staff might want to throw another adjustment at him to make. With the Devils’ roster as it sits, moving Boqvist to the role of winger might be beneficial to the team. He spent most, if not all, of his career at the center.

After watching his highlights, the transition to winger might not be as hard as it sounds. While some preseason line predictions have slotted Boqvist as a left-winger, after all, he is a left-hand shot, he seems comfortable entering the zone and shooting the puck from the right-hand side. While it might seem weird to have a left-handed right-winger, he wouldnít be the only opposite-handed shot on the Devils roster. Remember Nikita Gusev is a left-winger.

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Former Devil Guerin Named Minnesota Wild GM

August 22, 2019 - Devils Army Blog - View Full Article

The Minnesota Wild have welcomed another former New Jersey Devil into their ranks. This time his name isnít Zach Parise, although, this newest addition has reached hockeyís mountain top and raised a Stanley Cup with Jerseyís team. He also wonít be wearing a sweater and skates to games. Instead, he’ll be watching from afar in a suite enjoying his new position of power.

The Minnesota Wild announced on Wednesday that they named Bill Guerin as their new general manager. For the past few seasons, Guerin had been serving as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ assistant general manager. After being with the Penguins for their recent success, the expanded role should prove an easy transition for Guerin.

Although Guerin ended his career and captured his final championship as a player with Pittsburgh, he began his career and experienced much success with the Devils. He was the Devils’ first-round pick, fifth overall, in 1989 and would go onto to help the franchise win its first Stanley Cup in 1995. That championship was the only one he would see in New Jersey, as he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in the middle of the 1997-98 season.

Guerin has his work seemingly cut out for him. The once promising-looking Minnesota Wild seemed destined for a rebuild. The aging mega contracts of former Devils’ captain Zach Parise and Ryan Suter arenít helping matters. Considering Guerin had success in the back seat during the Penguins recent back-to-back championships, he brings valuable knowledge to the state of hockey to get the job done.

Guerin currently isnít the only former Devils with the reins of an NHL franchise. Vegas Golden Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee had a short stint with the Devils during the 1980s. Also interestingly enough, Guerinís immediate predecessor, Tom Kurvers who had been serving as Minnesotaís interim general manager, also spent a few seasons with the Devils in the late 1980s.

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