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2017 Devils second-round pick continues to shine

by Amanda Stein /
Center -- shoots L
Born Oct 30 1998 
Height 6.00 -- Weight 179lbs
Drafted: 2017 2nd Round, 36th overall by New Jersey Devils

When the New Jersey Devils called the name of Swedish prospect Jesper Boqvist at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the New Jersey brass felt lucky.

Selected in the second round, 36th overall, assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald described it as selecting a player in the second round with first-round caliber talent. 

"I think when we drafted Nico [Hischier] first and then [Jesper] second, we felt like we had drafted two first-rounders," Fitzgerald said. "We felt fortunate."

Fortunate, that is, to acquire a young Swedish prospect who currently ranks high on the Devils list of assets.

Boqvist is part of a group of Devils assets that New Jersey management holds in high regard. At his end-of-season press conference, general manager Ray Shero mentioned Boqvist first, when asked about the up-and-coming talent, not yet under NHL contracts. 

"To be able to sign these guys [eventually], they're assets," Shero said. "They're part of our development and are just so important. We'll see where they are at development camp and again at rookie camp."

Instagram from @jesperboqvist: What a feeling! Dream come true, excited to be a part of @njdevils organization! Looking forward to DevCamp💥 #Stoked

What the Devils do already know about Boqvist is his skating ability, a skill that has Fitzgerald excited about the Swede. 

"I would put him up against anyone skating wise," Fitzgerald said. "It's just effortless for him, he glides faster than some guys skate. That's a major asset of his. Then you add in his hockey sense, his skill set and his ability to do those things at that speed."

Boqvist's General Manager with Brynas, Stefan Bengtzen, who watches him on a nightly basis, has also recognized the asset. "He's kind of like a panther in the way he moves on the ice," Bengtzen said in 2018. 

His speed and hockey sense have given Boqvist the opportunity to shine in the Swedish hockey system.

At the U-16, U-18 and U-20 level, he has at one time held team scoring titles. In the 2015-16 season, he put up 58 points in just 38 games while a member of Brynäs IF J20 of the SuperElit League, Sweden's junior hockey league. His 58 points lead the North Division in the SuperElit. 

With his 2018-19 hockey season done, Boqvist has completed his first full season in SHL, and it is one that has was very successful for the 20-year-old. His 35 points in 52 games while competing against men full-time for the first time in his career, put Boqvist in the top 20 in goals, top 16 in assists and tied for second in points by players under the age of 21 in the SHL.

The Swedish league, which has produced an array of high-end NHL talent, has only had 11 such occasions in the last 10 years, where a forward under the age of 21 has scored 35-plus points in a single year. 

Boqvist is one of them, and he joins the likes of Vancouver rookie sensation Elias Pettersson and Vegas' William Karlsson, among others. It isn't going unnoticed by the New Jersey Devils.

"I've seen him play on three different occasions [this year]," he added. "He stands out. You're watching him, and he works. He pushes himself, that's one of his best assets."

Works so hard, that in one given hockey season, Boqvist earned his way through three separate Swedish leagues. In 2017, Boqvist played in the SuperElit league with the U-20's, the Swedish Hockey League and once the SHL season was over, was loaned to Timra, of Allsvenskan, the second-highest league in the Swedish ice hockey system. 

At the U-16 level in 2013-14, Boqvist ended the season with the most goals in his division in the U16 Elit league with 32. He also finished that season with the most points (49). A year later, he was the division (West) leader in Plus/Minus, assists and points in a year where he and his club won the J18 SM Gold Medal. By the end of the 2015-16 hockey season, he had two silver medals in his possession, both at the Hlinka Memorial tournament and at the U-18 World Junior Championship. At the 2018 World Junior Championship, Boqvist and Sweden brought home the silver medal after a defeat by Canada in the gold medal game. It was also Sweden's first medal at the tournament since 2014.  

As a kid, Boqvist began skating at the age of three. Both he and his younger brother Adam, drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2018, would spend endless hours at the local rink. Their father Patric, coached both boys in the Hedemora minor hockey program. 

Instagram from @adamboqvist32: Proud and very happy for you My brother❤❤

Jesper considers his father his biggest influence. "He's always doing the right thing," he told MSG Networks in 2018. "He always helps me choose the right way [in life]."

The two brothers spent so much time at their local rink, that the Zamboni driver gave Patric a key to the arena. 

What lays ahead next for Jesper is taking the next step and translating his game from the European sized ice to that of North American, says Fitzgerald.

"That will be one of the adjustments," Fitzgerald added. "It's about understanding the size of the arena and getting to the inside of the play, utilizing his skill. We're extremely excited about him." 

As for when that happens, signing Boqvist to his first NHL contract is certainly of interest to New Jersey. 

Because of the agreement between the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Swedish Hockey League, should Boqvist sign a contract this off-season, he will either have to be on the Devils NHL roster or sent back to the SHL to play with Brynas. 

That, ultimately, is up to the way Boqvist performs. He will dictate his own future. 

Just as his fellow Swede and namesake, Jesper Bratt, did two years ago. 

"[Boqvist's] timeline?," Devils General Manager Ray Shero asked rhetorically, "If you had asked me this question two years ago, 'What's your plan for Jesper Bratt?', I would have said he's a sixth-round pick from Sweden and he's going to come to training camp and then he's going to go to London [of the OHL] and he'll play Junior next year. That's a good thing, I think. The next thing you know, [Bratt] is on our team and had a great year without going to [the OHL] - you just don't know 100 percent."

Instagram from @jesperboqvist: Thanks for having me @njdevils

No matter when he makes that jump to North America, he has always had one goal in mind. After he called being drafted by New Jersey the greatest accomplishment of his hockey career, he now has set his eyes on the ultimate prize.

Being drafted, a first step. 

Making strides in the SHL, the next. 

Now a boy can really dream.

"My biggest hockey goal," he said. "is to win the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils." 

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