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Boqvist determined to forge path to NHL with Devils

Forward prospect, 18, will work on improving game in Sweden's top league this season

by Kaitlyn Kaminski / Staff Writer

Although forward Jesper Boqvist played for three teams on different levels in Sweden last season and struggled for playing time, he remained in a high position on the New Jersey Devils board heading into the 2017 NHL Draft.

Boqvist, 18, who was selected by the Devils in the second round (No. 36) and was the fifth Sweden-born player chosen, said playing for multiple teams was fine with him because he wanted to play as much hockey as he could.

"I think I pushed myself harder when I was on the men's team in Brynas because that was where I wanted to be," Boqvist said. "I had not played that much on the senior level, so that's [what] I need to work on."

He began the season scoring 15 points (10 goals, five assists) in 15 games with Brynas Jr. of the SuperElit League before moving up to Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League, where he had six assists in 16 games. He was then loaned to Timra, which plays in the second division, where he had 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 19 games.

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"Jesper was with Brynas, but as he did not get enough ice time, he spent some time in the minors with Timra," NHL director of European scouting Goran Stubb said. "It helped; he played a lot in the minors before moving back to Brynas."

"He got some regular minutes in the pro league last season and it helped him out a lot," Sweden national junior team coach Tomas Monten said. "He's getting stronger and getting more adjusted to playing with older players. He's always been skilled, so he has good skill and great speed and he can play both center and wing. … He's an offensive player who can help on the power play and on our top two lines."

Boqvist has raised his game at every level. He was the leading scorer for his teams at the U-16, U-18 and U-20 levels.

"We really liked his skill," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said. "It was a tough year for him. He played on three teams and it's never easy scouting kids in that type of year when they're not playing regularly. When they're on that elite roster [Brynas of the SHL] for their country, that's like their NHL, so to speak, and they're happy."

Boqvist said his speed is something he learned to take advantage of, and scouts began to take notice.

"He's a very skilled player, really good speed and puck skills, a player that we see as an offensive type of player," Castron said. "He split last season between junior and the men's team, and it was a little bit of a trying year for him as he tried to find the right spot, but sometimes it's a good part of development to face some adversity. He's a very talented player and we're very happy to have him."

During scouting, Castron said Boqvist didn't score a lot, but made up for that with his skills. 

"When you saw him in his age group you're like 'Wow'," he said. "He's got speed and hands, intelligence, and we're looking forward to seeing him get a regular shift this year in the [SHL] and he should do well."

Boqvist credits his father, Patric, for his development. Patric coached Jesper and his younger brother Adam when each played with Hedemora's under-16 team in 2013-14.

Adam Boqvist, a defenseman for Brynas Jr., is listed on NHL Central Scouting's Futures List of players eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft. 

"My father played and he took me out there and I started with him," Jesper said. 

Boqvist says he hopes to do well with Brynas this season and earn a spot on Sweden's roster for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo in December. He was invited by Sweden to participate in the USA Hockey World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan, through Sunday.

"I will do as good as possible," he said. "My long-term goal is to win the Stanley Cup."

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