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Should the New Jersey Devils be Playing Jesper Boqvist Over Some of Their Other Players?

After starting the season in the opening game lineup, Jesper Boqvist has found himself as a healthy scratch for the last six games. Should the Devils be looking at sitting another player to get Boqvist in?

New Jersey Devils v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

After playing very well during the final months of the 2021-22 season, it seemed as though Jesper Boqvist was poised to have a strong 2022-23 season for the New Jersey Devils. While there’s obviously still time (it has only been seven games after all), the season can’t be going as Boqvist would have liked it to. As of this writing, he has appeared on opening night against the Philadelphia Flyers, and that’s been it. Even with injuries and a return to twelve forwards and six defenders last game, Boqvist still found himself on the outside looking in. But should Boqvist have been the only healthy forward that sat in the previous game?

Taking a look at both point totals as well as advanced stats, the quick answer would be yes, Boqvist absolutely should be sitting for the time being. In his one appearance so far, he contributed no points in the 10:59 that he was on the ice while also being a -1 on a night where the team as a whole didn’t look great. Since that time, the Devils have put up another pair of losses, but in both of those, they have played like a more dominant team, while also playing pretty much the same way in their four wins. Looking at those stats alone is reason to see Boqvist on the outside looking in.

Digging deeper into advanced stats, we can also see why the Devils’ staff might be waiting before giving Boqvist another shot this season. His all-situations expected goals for (xGF) is a team low 0.52. While it is a low number in a small sample size, Fabian Zetterlund (two games) and Kevin Bahl (three with limited ice time) both have posted an xGF at least a full goal higher. Boqvist’s all-situations Corsi is good, at an even 60, which qualifies him at 12th best on the team. Adjusting this for 5 on 5 play, however, sees Boqvist’s number remain the same (due to him not playing on special teams in Philly aside from four seconds shorthanded) while almost the entire rest of the team sees their CF% rise above his. The only players who don’t rise above him? Alexander Holtz (who has had some struggles), Brandan Smith (not surprising, but he plays a different position) and, actually surprisingly, Dawson Mercer.

Mercer is a more proven NHLer, so he isn’t coming out of the lineup for Boqvist right now, and again Smith plays a different position. While one could make the argument that Smith should be out for Bahl, that’s a completely separate article that could be written about. The argument could be made to sit Holtz in favor of Boqvist, however Holtz brings a cannon of a shot that Boqvist just doesn’t. While the Devils need to set Holtz up for a better chance at success, it’s not a reason to pull him out of the lineup in favor of a similarly struggling player who doesn’t bring that skill to the table.

Watching the games, however, there are a couple of other options for players that could be swapped out for Boqvist. While his underlying numbers are good, Erik Haula hasn’t exactly looked great while watching games and offensively has been almost a black hole. Similarly, Tomas Tatar has struggled to put points on the board; would it not be worth trying to take one of these players out of the lineup to see if Boqvist can add more? Would it be worth giving Boqvist a shot over Michael McLeod, who hasn’t been nearly as strong in the faceoff circle this season as he was last?

Maybe it’s just a matter of time until the Devils decide they need to shake up the lineup or a position again, but for right now, despite my belief that he can contribute to this team, I think having Boqvist out of the lineup is the right call. While his only game of the season wasn’t bad, the Devils have found a formula that has won them four of their most recent six games. That could change after tonight’s contest with the defending Stanley Cup Chamption Colorado Avalanche, but until that game is played (or at least until lineups come out for tonight to see if Boqvist is in) I expect the Devils to keep rolling with what has (mostly) worked so far.

What are your thoughts on Jesper Boqvist having only appeared in one game so far this season; do you think there is anyone he should be playing over? Are you of the belief that he’s the right player to be sitting right now? Do you think the team’s advanced stats paint the whole picture of both Boqvist and the aforementioned possible players he could sub in for? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!