The 2021 Chicago Blackhawks are off to a rough start as the team has just one point through four games. Truthfully, the product we're seeing on the ice was expected considering the Hawks' injury issues and the experience level of several players on the roster.
The key focus of this season is the development of young players within the organization to show the fans, front office, and coaching staff what the club truly has to work with moving forward. While there are early bright spots such as Alex DeBrincat finding the score sheet regularly, Dominik Kubalik breaking out with a multi-goal game, and Ian Mitchell showing flashes of his capability on the blue line, there are areas the Blackhawks staff should keep a close eye on. One player in particular under the microscope is second-year defenseman Adam Boqvist.
Boqvist, a 20-year-old former first-round pick, was selected eighth overall in the 2018 draft from the London Knights. During that draft year, there was a lot of talk about Boqvist's offensive skillset after he scored 60 points (20 goals, 40 assists) in 54 games in the OHL. At 19 years old, the Swedish-born blue-liner scored four goals and dished nine assists for the Blackhawks in 41 games throughout the 2019-20 campaign. So far this season, Boqvist has recorded two shots on goal and three points, all power-play assists, through four games.
At just 20 years of age, there is plenty of room for improvement and growth as an NHL defenseman, but the question is; how patient will the Blackhawks be with #27? There have been numerous occasions already this season where Boqvist is either out of position, or in position but gets beat. Offensively, the world has yet to see what his true potential is. Setting up the power play and moving the puck to those who can put it in the back of the net is great, but Boqvist needs to log some goals on the back end in order to truly solidify himself as a part of this roster.
The answer to that aforementioned question? The Blackhawks will likely be very patient with a player they spent a top-ten pick on. But it will be vital for Boqvist and the team as a whole that the young Swede to develops into a true offensive defenseman.
With 52 games remaining on the slate for the Blackhawks in 2021, fans will likely see more mistakes for Boqvist. There may be stretches where he doesn't record a point. There may be chunks of the schedule in which he's seemingly nonexistent. What is important to remember, though, is that this is a season for the organization to evaluate everything in front of them. This is a no-pressure year for the majority of the players on this roster, including Adam Boqvist.
2021, 2022, and a bit beyond will be a significant change of pace for the Blackhawks. Fans were previously accustomed to the team shuffling young players in to see if they would fit with the veteran core that was in place with the goal of winning more championships. Now, the front office is trying to find its next set of most valuable stars. This gives them the opportunity to extend longer leashes to players who need the extra wiggle room to find their game. So, as frustrating as Adam Boqvist's mistakes may be, the truth is that this is the perfect time for him to be making them.
For further Blackhawks analysis, updates, and commentary throughout the season, be sure to tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast.