For Boqvist the older, slow and steady wins the race: “Not surprised he is this good”
When the 2017/2018 season started, Brynäs had high hopes for Jesper Boqvist.
They put him on the first line and counted on him to replace Philadelphia prospect Oskar Lindblom who by then had left the team to play for the Flyers.
But the season started in the worst possible way for the youngster.
In a Champions Hockey League-game during the pre-season, Boqvist was hit from behind and got a serious wrist injury that devastated the first three months of his season.
Because of the injury, the versatile teenager only played 22 games in SHL and his performance in the World Junior Championships was, by his standards, not very good.
“Last season was tough for me”, says Boqvist.
“Having said that, there were of course a few highlights – representing my team in the world junior, for one. I had the same mindset before last season that I had towards this season. I’m glad that it’s working better for me now.”
A year ago, he had recently made his comeback after the wrist injury.
A year ago, he was looking to find his confidence and timing before the world juniors.
Now Jesper Boqvist is one of the best players in the SHL. But this season hasn’t been all good, either. After a bad run of games at the beginning of the season, Brynäs coach at the time, Tommy Sjödin, put Boqvist on the bench for a game against Linköping.
“I had three, four games at the beginning of the season that felt good. And then I had three, four games that were really bad. I didn’t do anything. I was straight up terrible. When I got benched, it worked as a wake-up call to me. I got my act together. I wasn’t playing nearly good enough, but I still believed in myself. It’s no secret that I believe in myself.”
The breakthrough performance that many predicted to arrive last season has instead come in the last couple of weeks as the speedy winger has delivered highlight reel-worthy plays in almost every single game. National team coach Rikard Grönborg even awarded him with a spot on Swedish national team “Tre Kronor” in Euro Hockey Tour.
“That’s something I’ve always dreamt of. I mean, I’ve looked up to the guys that have played there before me. I was proud to be selected to play for my country.”
After playing three games for team Sweden in a tournament set in Russia, Boqvist returned to the SHL and has kept on dominating ever since. His new coach in Brynäs, Magnus Sundquist, gave the 20-year-old some lofty praise:
“Before he left to play with the national team, I told him that he played like a top import-player in this league. Since he’s come back he’s been just as good as he was before he left. I think that’s a strength for a 20-year-old. It would be easy for him to come back and just feel good about himself”.
The youngster is now in seventh place in the scoring league in SHL, only four points shy of the leader Jakob Lilja from Djurgården.
New Jersey Devils drafted Boqvist in the second round of the draft in 2017, and he has met with representatives from the club during this season.
“They were here a couple of weeks ago and we talked a little bit then. But they didn’t really say all that much. For me, it’s enough to know that if I do good things, good things will happen. Of course, it’s a target for me to play over there next season, but it’s not something I think about every day. If I would do that, I would just trip myself up.”
According to his linemate in Brynäs top-line, center Joel Kellman, Jesper Boqvist’s future is bright.
“He is fantastic. He plays with such speed, technique, and smartness. Right now, it’s just fun to watch him play. But I can’t say I’m surprised that he is this good right now. He has qualities to become just as good as anyone. He is going to be a top player in the NHL in the future.”
Maybe we will see Jesper Boqvist in New Jersey Devils as soon as next season. Maybe he will face his brother Adam in Chicago.
But that’s nothing he himself wastes time worrying about, of course. Slow and steady wins the race, it seems.