Ray Shero and his staff have been adding talented prospects from leagues all over the world since he took over the New Jersey Devils. One group that I find especially intriguing is the Swedish prospects. Jesper Boqvist was considered a potential 1st round talent in 2017 but fell to the Devils in the early part of the 2nd round. He is coming off of a breakout year in the respected Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and is anticipated to make the Devils roster out of training camp this fall. Fabian Zetterlund was taken a round after Boqvist in the 2017 draft and is poised to make the jump from the SHL to AHL. He figures to make an impact pending he can stay healthy after an injury riddled 2018-19 campaign. Finally, Nikola Pasic was a 7th round pick of the Devils in this year’s draft but many see him as a much more talented player than his draft position would have you think. Today’s post will recap what each of these players did in the 2018-19 season and touch on what the upcoming season could have in store for each of them.
One of the most exciting prospects in the pool, LW Jesper Boqvist is a former 2nd round pick of the Devils in the 2017 draft. The 6’0, 181 lbs. product of Falun, Sweden is coming off of a breakout season in the SHL as a 20 year old. His birthday is October 30, so if all goes to plan, he will spending his 21st birthday with the Devils instead of back with Brynäs IF, which is where he is set to go if he doesn’t play in the NHL this season. An injury shortened 2017-18 season saw him play in just 23 SHL games with 3 goals and 10 assists while averaging 15:25 per game. He did earn a Silver Medal at the WJC as a member of Sweden’s U20 team.
This past season saw him breakout and become a leading offensive threat for his team. In 51 SHL games he had 13 goals and 22 assists while averaging 2.35 shots and 18:25 per game. Using his possession metrics from the SHL site, we can see he had a 49.37 Corsi For%, 49.84 Close Corsi For%, 50.68 Fenwick For%, and 51.54 Close Fenwick For%. Those possession numbers were actually among some of the best in terms of full time forwards on what ended up being a non-playoff team. In terms of raw production, he ranked 3rd on his team in goals (13), 2nd in assists (22), and 2nd in points (35). Among U21 players in the SHL, Boqvist was 4th in goals, 1st in assists, and 3rd in points. This strong season saw the Devils sign him to an entry level contract with the idea that he will either play next season in New Jersey or back with Brynäs IF. Boqvist speed, puck handling, and shooting abilities would be a welcome sight in New Jersey so I hope he can play well in camp to earn a spot in the top 9. It is a big ask of a prospect that is just about to turn 21, but it seems like the time is right to see if he can handle the challenge of the NHL.
Check him out in action from the recent development camp that took place last week:
This beauty from @jesperboqvist pic.twitter.com/NTkwXQ1jJU— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 14, 2019
Another product of the 2017 draft class, 3rd round selection RW Fabian Zetterlund has already earned a reputation for his strength and North/South style game. The 5’11, 198 lbs. native of Karlstad, Sweden is coming off of his age 19 season and will turn 20 on August 25. He’s spent his youth and junior career climbing up the Färjestad BK ranks, making his SHL debut in the 2015-16 season. The 2017-18 season would see him earn a full time spot on the senior team’s roster, appearing in 35 SHL games with 3 goals and 4 assists. He also had a conditioning loan with Timrå IK in the Allsvenskan (2nd tier) where he put up 2 goals and 3 assists in 8 games. I should also mention that he helped Sweden’s U20 team to a Silver Medal at that year’s WJC.
This past season was a bit tough for him as an ACL injury and eventual surgery limited him to just 16 games in the SHL. This was unfortunate as he had seen a bit of an increase in his average ice time from 8:51 in 2017-18 to 10:10 in 2018-19. He showed glimpses of production in his limited role over 16 games with 2 goals and 2 assists as well as decent 51.35 CF%. For the most part, his possession metrics were about average compared to the rest of his team’s roster. The Devils still saw enough to sign him to an an entry level contract where he is likely to acclimate to North American hockey with Binghamton (AHL) this upcoming season. If healthy, I think he should have a fairly smooth transition given he already plays a North/South, physical style where he uses his strength to win puck battles and set screens in front of the net to create scoring chances for his teammates. Abbey Mastracco of NorthJersey.com reported a few days ago that Zetterlund is expected to be ready in time to compete in training camp. It will be interesting to see how much of a recovery he made from surgery and what type of impact he can make in Binghamton where there should certainly be opportunity available for him to earn playing time. At the NHL level someday he figures to be a solid bottom 6 guy that could play special teams if he develops as hoped over the next couple of years.
One of the newest Devils prospects is C/LW Nikola Pasic who was selected by the team in the 7th round of this year’s draft. Pasic is a skilled player known for his vision, passing, stickhandling, and wrist shot. The 5’10, 181 lbs. forward from Gislaved, Sweden is coming off of his age 18 season with an October 16, 2000 birth-date. He’s been steadily climbing the Linköping HC ranks since 2016-17 season, passing through the J18 and J20 ranks. This past season saw him spend most of the season with the J20 team in the SuperElit league where he put up 18 goals and 18 assists in 33 regular season games. He was also productive for them in 6 playoff games with 2 goals and 3 assists to help the team earn a Silver Medal. In regular season play for his J20 team, he finished 2nd in goals (18), 5th in assists (18), and 3rd in points (36). He did play in just 33 games so his 1.09 points per game rate ranked 1st among players with at least 30 games played on the team (Gustav Lindberg had a 1.45 points per game rate in 20 games but is a year older). In terms of comparing Pasic’s production to the rest of the league we see his 1.09 points per game rate ranked 9th among all players and 6th among U19 players that played in at least 30 games.
Pasic managed to get into 15 SHL games for the senior team where he had a goal and an assist. As we can see from the stats table in the beginning of this post, he seemed to hold his own in very limited action with a 60.32 CF%, 57.45 CCF%, 55.10 FF%, and 50.0 CFF%. Obviously, you can’t take a 15 game sample, especially when he’s averaged just 2:24 per game too serious, but it is better than seeing him completely over-matched. Pasic had a conditioning loan for 2 games to BIK Karlskoga in the Allsvenskan (2nd tier of Swedish hockey) where he had an assist. He’s set to join BIK Karlskoga for the upcoming season where he can further develop his game with more ice time against men as he tries to help the team earn promotion to the SHL. In addition to further rounding out his offensive abilities, I hope to see him improve his defensive game and reads of the game in the defensive and neutral zones. I think this is a great move for him that should help him take the next step forward in his development.
What are your thoughts on each of these four players? Which of these players do you feel will make an impact in New Jersey someday? What are your expectations for these players in the upcoming season? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!