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Boqvist eager to train with Backstrom, eyes next level for Devils

20-year-old forward prospect, Capitals center will skate together in native Sweden

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Jesper Boqvist is looking forward to some on-ice education in August, when the 20-year-old New Jersey Devils forward prospect will skate with Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom in their native Sweden.

Boqvist, a second-round pick (No. 36) in the 2017 NHL Draft, will meet Backstrom in Gavle, Sweden, where they each train at the home rink of Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League.

Boqvist (6-foot, 180 pounds) is one of New Jersey's top offensive prospects looking to earn a roster spot. He has played the past two seasons for Brynas; Backstrom played three seasons with the organization from 2004-07.


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"I'll skate with him in August, and hopefully ask him some questions for when I come back [for training camp]," Boqvist said during Devils development camp earlier this month. "Especially about the small ice and the game [in North America]. It'll be good for me. My coaches in Sweden told me to trust what I'm good at. I know that's easier when you're bigger and stronger."

Boqvist, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Devils on June 10, will either play for New Jersey or Brynas following training camp.

"The ball's in his court," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said. "He has NHL skill, speed and has size. On the bigger rinks in Sweden, a lot of it is on the outside but I think [Boqvist] did a better job of getting to the inside this year and taking pucks to the net."

Boqvist had 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 51 games for Brynas last season after a wrist injury sidelined him for all but 23 games in 2017-18.

Tomas Monten, who coached Boqvist for Sweden at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, said he improved his strength and toughness in 2018-19.

"He was able to create more, and not just by way of his speed and skill," Monten said. "Personally, I think he would be better off playing another year in the SHL and for the national team. He's good in the open ice, with good speed, hands and vision. But I still think he needs to learn how to create more inside the dots."

Boqvist, comfortable at either left wing or center, is privy to the fact he must stand taller in the tough areas.

"I know I need to get harder in the corners and I've gotten stronger," he said. "Playing in those areas becomes easier when you have confidence to play that way. I've been working at it, so hopefully I'll be even better when training camp starts."

Devils assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald isn't placing any expectations on Boqvist.

"He's a talented player who's going to get a chance to make our team, but needs to show us that," Fitzgerald said. "He needs to be a playmaker, get to the inside of the ice at the NHL level. You can't play the perimeter in the NHL because the rinks aren't big enough. If you want to produce, you need to get to the inside. He knows that, so now it's a matter of producing."

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