Blackhawks

Blackhawks’ Adam Boqvist stays with team, could make opening-night roster

Earlier this year at the NHL Draft combine, defenseman Adam Boqvist speculated he was still two or three years away from being NHL-ready.

He might be a lot closer than he originally anticipated.

Boqvist redeemed himself Thursday night in a 4-2 preseason loss to the Red Wings, just two nights after a timid performance in the Hawks’ preseason opener at Columbus. The 18-year-old Swede, who admitted he wasn’t as nervous the second time around, played more aggressively, attacking the puck and showing off his speed. On several occasions, he was a nuisance to Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou, pestering him in the Hawks’ zone and making him work for his lone goal.

At first it appeared that Boqvist, who played a team-high 22:15, was simply leaving training camp on a high note, as it was expected that the Hawks would assign him to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League before their regular-season opener Oct. 4. Instead, after the game, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville made it clear Boqvist would be staying with the team — at least for now.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Adam Boqvist (27) and Detroit Red Wings forward Evgeny Svechnikov (37) go after the puck during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game in Detroit on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. | Mike Mulholland/The Grand Rapids Press via AP

“He’s going to be all right for a while here,” Quenneville told reporters in Detroit. “When I say ‘a while,’ I mean we’ll see how he does next week. As we’ve gone through camp and we see him play through the games, we’re watching him. We’ve been pleased with him. It’s almost like, when you come to camp, we want to watch these guys. They make those decisions for us with how they play, and it’s been a positive one.”

Asked if Boqvist would be on the Hawks’ opening-night roster, Quenneville said that wasn’t “out of the realm of possibilities.” It’s very possible the Hawks plan to give him a taste of in-season NHL action before sending him off to the Knights. He technically can play in nine games this season without tapping into the first year of his entry-level deal.

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General manager Stan Bowman has been impressed with Boqvist, a player he described as fun to watch, but said he’s not at all surprised by him. Boqvist, the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft, is one of the rare younger players who thrives when surrounded by talent, Bowman said.

“He’s probably going to be more effective than some people his age because he has the really good instincts,” Bowman told the Sun-Times. “Even though he’s playing against better players, he’s playing with really good players. He can read off them, and I think that’s why he’s done well. It’s because the competition has gone up over the last week.”

Boqvist played part of last season with Sweden’s junior hockey league, posting 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in 25 regular-season games. With the newfound confidence, he believes he’s capable of playing at the NHL level. But he also sees the need to be bigger and stronger and plans to work on both this season.

“It’s fun to be here now,” he said. “I need to keep it up . . . if I want to be here longer.”

NOTE: The Hawks’ one-day trip to Ottawa on Friday began like a nightmare but ended with their first preseason victory.

The Hawks were late arriving at Canadian Tire Centre because of traffic and a tornado warning, NBC Sports Chicago reported. After their arrival, the arena lost power, according to TSN.

After power was restored, the Hawks managed to bounce back from a sluggish first period and beat the Senators 5-2. Goalie Collin Delia allowed both goals in the first period but had some clutch saves and managed to stop 17 of 19 shots.  Forwards Luke Johnson, Marcus Kruger, Andreas Martinsen and Dominik Kahun each posted two points.