Adam Boqvist, D (Sweden) – 2018 8th overall pick
At this point, most Chicago Blackhawks fans should know who Adam Boqvist is. With the way he played during training camp, I honestly thought he was going to make the Blackhawks’ opening night roster. Now he has the chance to shine for Sweden during this tournament and make even more of a name for himself.
The 18-year-old defenseman missed some games battling an injury in London, but he’s still leading the defensemen on the Knights in scoring (9 G, 16 A, 25 P in 23 games). Boqvist has really turned heads as of late with eight goals in his last eight games.
It’s pretty apparent he’s fantastic offensively. His elite vision with an excellent hockey IQ allow him to be creative with the puck. His instincts drive him to hunt for the puck in all zones of the ice and he’s not afraid to jump up on the rush or create one himself.
While this will be his first year in the U20 tournament, Boqvist was named the best defenseman at the 2018 U18 World Junior Championship when Sweden earned the bronze medal. He led all defensemen in goals (three) and points (six). Considering the impression he left on Blackhawks fans after his training camp performance, Boqvist will be one of the most fun prospects to watch in this year’s tournament.
Henri Jokiharju, D (Finland) – 2017 29th overall pick
There’s no question Henri Jokiharju has what it takes to be a top NHL defenseman. He’s already played 32 games with the Chicago Blackhawks this year, racking up 11 assists as a rookie. At just 19 years old, he has been the best and most reliable defenseman on a team whose best D-man is always Duncan Keith.
While he’s made some obvious rookie mistakes, Jokiharju has impressed everyone. He leads the Blackhawks in 5-on-5 Corsi-for percentage and Fenwick-for percentage. He has the fifth-most ice time among skaters and averages exactly 20 minutes per game.
Jokiharju is strong in one-on-one puck battles, especially along the boards. His ability to knock opposing players off the puck and efficiently exit the zone is one of the attributes about his play that has stood out to me above anything else.
Last year, he was the best defenseman in the tournament with four points in five games. He will be this championship, too. As one of the older players, Jokiharju’s strong skating and puck-moving abilities will be on display.
Our very own Sam Boland discussed the positive and negative implications of that move. While there are definitely some negatives and worry about his development stagnating at the tournament, this could also be a great opportunity for Jokiharju to gain some more confidence. It’s still a great opportunity for him to play for Finland and vie for the gold medal.