It’s generally a good thing when a Swedish defender is compared directly to Erik Karlsson, and Adam Boqvist has lived with those comparisons ever since the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in 2017, where he burst out onto the international stage.
Boqvist certainly brings out the same type of offence and delivers the same output as the more known defender at the same age. He scored 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in the Swedish U20 Super Elite the past season for a 0.96 points-per-game average. In his draft year, Erik Karlsson put up 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) for a 0.97 points-per-game rate at the same level. Any time a defender breaks an Erik Karlsson record (for goals) and almost ties him in production pace, it will be noticed.
Birthplace: Falun, Sweden
Weight: 170 lbs.
Youth team: Hedemora SK, Sweden
Pro team: Brynäs, SHL
Through no fault of his own, Boqvist has lived in the shadow of a certain Rasmus Dahlin this year, and has spent most of the season out of the limelight with the U20 team. He has made a few appearances for Brynäs in the SHL, and seven games out on loan to Almtuna in HockeyAllsvenskan to replace Gustav Lindström who was in Buffalo, playing the WJC for Sweden.
At the start, the loan was a success. Boqvist played around 20 minutes a game. But when Lindström returned, Boqvist was back to playing as the seventh defender with limited ice time; the same role he had in Brynäs before the assignment. He played 15 games total in the SHL with Brynäs, posting an average ice time of 7:27 with two assists, but it also came with a -7 rating.
When Boqvist returned to Brynäs’ U20 team, he was dominant once more.
It has been clear that the defender's youthful enthusiasm has been a weakness when he has played at a higher level, leading him out of position in his zone. His impetuous charges when he makes a play on the puck rather than the opponent also shows that his reads in the defensive zone aren’t up to a professional level just yet.
But Boqvist seems to have improved his defensive awareness and stabilized himself a little bit when he played at the junior level as the year went on, something that should bode well for his future.
There's also an element of the defensive game that comes more naturally to him, and that's playing against other teams’ rushes. He doesn't always have the best of gaps, but he can adapt quickly to attackers trying to move around him with his great mobility. His quickness often enables him to be aggressive in the neutral zone, cutting passes before the opposition can attempt to get across his blue line.
Boqvist wears #3 with the Team Sweden and #16 with Brynäs U20.
What's exciting about Boqvist isn't his defensive game, but his immense offensive potential. And that’s something that is directly fueled by his skating ability.
Seamless transitions from backward to forward strides and a high top speed are continuously used to surprise the opposition's defence and create a ton of scoring chances, both for the undersized defenceman and his teammates on any given night.
He is always involved on the attack and never misses an opportunity to charge the net, regularly jumping from the offensive blue line or the neutral zone to sneak behind defenders for shots from the slot area.
One of Boqvist's most distinctive abilities is that he knows how to create space for himself, and shows creativity in doing so. He makes quick stops and cutbacks to beat defenders, and his great edgework added to his deft hands allows him to come out on top in most one-on-one battles.
But Boqvist also routinely uses passes to create separation. As soon as he gives the puck to a teammate, he looks to explode in a direction to give a return option.
He can act as a setup man and has some good playmaking abilities. Those are also supplemented by the usage of deception. But he is, first and foremost, a goal-scorer. It’s something he continues to display at the IIHF U18 tournament, with three goals in four games, including two against Canada on Tuesday.
He can unload slapshots from the point, but prefers the precision of wristers much more often, getting as close to the net as possible before releasing and using his speed to add power to his release. He can displace the defence to create lanes to fire in, and beat goaltenders from afar if he doesn't have the space to move up.
There are some obvious weaknesses in Boqvist's game and he also at times has been outmuscled when playing against men. But these are growing pains, and the upside of a defender with the potential to match Erik Karlsson not only in the offensive output but also with his dynamic play will make it sure that he goes early in the draft.
ISS Hockey: 9
Future Considerations: 5
McKeen’s Hockey: 8
NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters): 2
Whereas Dahlin will have a direct impact on an NHL team, Boqvist, as one of the youngest players in the draft, is far from a finished product, and will need to have some seasoning at the professional level before he moves across the Atlantic for the NHL.
His growth as a player will depend on the work he puts in on his defensive game, away from the puck, but also in his ability to orchestrate the breakout for his team. Boqvist has the talent to become a force in transitions and even better at transforming defence into offence.
There's the potential for him to use his skills, not only on the attack, but also to get his team out of difficult situations in the defensive end. Doing so more regularly would be a step in becoming the elite player he can be.