The Blackhawks have played their first game, and it was a bit rough.
Although, to be honest, it was kind of what a lot of people expected. The Chicago Blackhawks iced a group of rookies and lost to a better team. It was only the first game of the season, but there were some takeaways.
While this year is supposed to herald a youth movement for the Chicago Blackhawks, that doesn’t mean everyone should be playing in the NHL. Rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist should be in the AHL. It would be the best thing for his development.
At times last season, it felt like he was going to go from strength to strength and end the year on a positive note. He showed some of the offensive flair the team hoped he’d start displaying and even potted a couple of goals. Things were looking up.
Then the pandemic stopped the 2019-20 season. When the NHL resumed play, Boqvist looked like a completely different player. The dynamism everyone started to see just wasn’t there. In fact, Boqvist himself just seemed to be invisible on the ice.
After Vegas ended Chicago’s season, it was time to reflect, regroup, and prepare for 2020-21. Even though the training camp was short, it felt fair to give Boqvist the benefit of the doubt. He’s young, inexperienced, and was forced into being an NHL starter before he might have been ready.
The problem comes from the fact that in the first game of 2020-21, Boqvist looked like the underwhelming player he was in the postseason for 2019-20. He committed a bad holding penalty against Ondrej Palat by being out of position. He made questionable turnovers in his own end. He appears almost tentative at times, as if he thinks he has more time and space than he actually does.
If the AHL starts up in February like it’s scheduled to, then the best thing Chicago could do is to send Boqvist to Rockford. He’d be better off playing big minutes in the AHL than he will be as a second or third-pairing defenseman in the NHL. It might be the best way to salvage this season for Boqvist.
Chicago has 12 games between January 13 and February 5 when the AHL drops the puck. If Boqvist can’t make a case for himself over that span of time, then he should be sent down to Rockford. The most important thing for Boqvist now is to play as much as he can. He’d do that in Rockford, but not in Chicago. He’s only 20. If he spends this season with the IceHogs, it would probably be the best thing for him. He’s a key component of Chicago’s youth movement. The team needs him to succeed. The NHL might be the best place for him this year.