Fresh off signing his first NHL contract, New Jersey Devils prospect Jesper Boqvist caught up with Amanda Stein from Sweden on Monday morning. Boqvist, the Devils second pick (36th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft, is fresh off a season playing for Brynas IF in the Swedish Hockey League.
Playing against men full-time for the first time in his career, Boqvist had an outstanding season where his 35 points in 52 games put him in the top 20 in scoring, top 16 in assists and tied for second in points by players under the age of 21 in the SHL.
Amanda Stein: Congratulations on your first NHL contract! How excited are you to have the contract done and signed?
Jesper Boqvist: Yeah, it's really for me a dream come true. It's the first step in the right way for me and my career, I'm one step closer. It's fun for me to think about.
AS: Growing up in Sweden, was the NHL always the ultimate goal for you? You've been able to play in the Swedish Hockey League, but has the NHL been something you've always dreamed of?
JB: Of course! I'm lucky, first I got to play with my favorite team growing up (Brynäs IF) in the Swedish league and now I get to sign with New Jersey, it's, of course, a dream. My dream is to play with New Jersey Devils, now.
AS: At 20 years old you've been playing in the Swedish Hockey League against men. This past season was your first time playing a full year in the SHL, what was that like and how did that challenge you as a player?
JB: It was really fun for me. I was given a pretty big role on our team, I played big minutes and played on the top line and the top power-play [unit]. It was fun, and I learned a lot from the experience.
AS: What was the most important thing you learned about your game from that experience in the SHL?
JB: Probably like you need to play without the puck, too! (laughs) No, I'm just kidding. It's tough to play against men, of course. They are just so much stronger and think the game so smartly, smarter than the young guys so that was the challenge, I think.
AS: There's a lot of current players in the NHL that are Swedish and have made names for themselves in North America. As a young Swedish prospect, was there a particular player that you grew up watching and wanting to be like? Someone whose footsteps you wanted to follow in?
JB: Oh, definitely. [Washington Capitals] Nicklas Backstrom, he played for the team I grew up cheering for in Sweden, Brynäs IF. And then I got to play for the team too, so him, of course, I grew up watching. And I also really like Marcus Johansson, when I was growing up I also watched him play. Those two are players I admired.
AS: What would it be like, knowing that you're one step closer with your NHL contract, to be able to play in the NHL against those top Swedish players?
JB: It's unbelievable when you think of it. Hopefully, it's something I can do soon.
AS: When you have the chance to come over to North America this coming summer and attend Devils camps, what are you hoping you can show to the management and coaching staff in New Jersey?
JB: Hopefully I can bring some offensive upside and touches and just play my game.
AS: That seems like a good thing to want to show! Especially signing with a team that has a lot of young up and coming talent. Is it exciting to be a part of a team that is on the upswing and has a bit of a younger roster?
JB: Yeah, for sure. I've been following [New Jersey's] games when I can [from Sweden]. The young guys there are playing really good. It's fun to see and for me, I just hope I can be part of that soon, one day with them.
AS: Now that you have the contract done, that must be a relief. What's the plan for the rest of your summer?
JB: For me, it's about the next level of working out. I need to get much stronger and all that stuff. So that's what's really on my mind right now for the summer.
AS: With the chance of coming over to North America soon, how excited does that make you be close to your brother Adam, again? He's currently playing in North American with the London Knights in the CHL and I know you both are very close.
JB: Yeah, it really, really is, yeah. It's tough to be away from him, but we have always been on the same teams and city, so it will be nice to be close. But right now, we're just happy we both have phones!
Boqvist will arrive later next month in New Jersey to participate in the Devils Development Camp ahead of main training camp in September.