By Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter @adbblue
The Boston Bruins signed center Jesper Boqvist on July 12th to a one-year $775,000 contract. Perhaps GM Don Sweeney is taking a page out of his book from last year’s off-season by targeting a New Jersey Devils player who has not yet tapped into their full potential. Pavel Zacha was acquired via trade from New Jersey before the 2022-23 season and posted the most productive season of his career thus far with Boston.
Boqvist, a Swedish-born center, was a 2nd round pick of the Devils in the 2017 NHL draft and cracked the New Jersey roster during the 2019-20 season. However, he had found himself going up and down from the AHL to NHL and finally spent the entire season in the NHL last year. The 24-year-old registered ten goals and 11 assists for 21 points in 70 games last season and was +2. So now under contract with the Black and Gold, what does Jesper Boqvist bring to the Bruins?
The Falun, Sweden native, will most likely slot into the fourth-line center role with the departure of Tomas Nosek in free agency. Boqvist plays a solid, finesse two-way style of hockey and is effective with the puck on his stick in all three zones of the ice. He is also a very strong skater and has the ability to make impressive offensive plays, especially as a puck distributor. At six foot, Boqvist is not the biggest or most physical guy on the ice, but he can still absorb contact and play on the boards when needed; however, playing in space is his forte.
He did not have much special teams opportunity, with New Jersey only averaging 28 seconds of shorthanded time on ice per game and just six seconds of power-play time on ice. That will likely change in Boston, notably on the penalty kill, as the organization breeds penalty killers, and it would be no shock if Boqvist follows suit. Furthermore, historically, the Bruin’s fourth-line center has also logged a lot of shorthanded time on the ice.
The left-shot center was also shuffled around the Devil’s lineup last season, sometimes playing the right wing. With the roster as it stands currently, it won’t be likely we see Boqvist play anything other than his natural position at center, which is what most players prefer. Perhaps that will provide him with a sense of comfortability in his role.
Boqvist’s biggest weakness is he is unreliable at the faceoff dot, finishing last season with a 33.2% win percentage, the third worst in the league among qualified players. The Bruins coaching staff will be sure to focus on improving that. The team was third-best in the league last season with a 53.9% win rate. If Boquvist can improve his faceoff technique, it would make him a much more valuable part of the lineup, especially on the penalty kill. It would also make him a trustworthy option for defensive zone faceoffs and matchups against opponents.
With Boqvist still young at 24, could he be another player who takes advantage of an opportunity in a different environment? With him signing a one-year deal going into his fifth season, he will have to buckle down and play the best hockey of his career to earn another NHL contract. That should make the former second-round pick a hungry player, which would benefit the Bruins heading into the 2023-24 season.