Thursday night was Adam Boqvist's return to where it all started.
The 21-year-old Swede was back in the United Center playing opposite the team that drafted him eighth overall in 2018. It was his second game against the Chicago Blackhawks, with the old team beating his new team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-2, at Nationwide Arena on Jan. 11.
Boqvist and co. had the last laugh with Thursday's 7-4 win. For the game, he was +2 with two blocked shots in 17:59.
In parts of three NHL seasons, Boqvist is enjoying what you could call a career year with highs in goals (nine) and points (17). His nine goals this season are tied for sixth among all defensemen in the league.
The most games he's played in a single season are 41 dating back to 2019-20—his 35 games played matches last year's total—and he's six assists shy of his high of 14 in 2020-21.
Recently, we covered the state of the Blue Jackets defense. While it's not as stout as years prior, it's creating more offensive havoc, true to form for the current state of the team as a whole.
That's on par for Boqvist and Zach Werenski—Werenski isn't having the typical offensive impact we've grown accustomed to, in large part due to the way the defense is built now—but both outscore the entire Blackhawks defense.
Werenski had two more assists against the Blackhawks on Thursday. Seth Jones and Calvin de Haan each had an assist, so the score is 18-17 Boqvist and Werenski versus the Blackhawks defense.
Evolving-Hockey has a chart showcasing Boqvist's shot production on the season.
Per Evolving-Hockey, among Blue Jackets defensemen, Boqvist's EVD (Even-Strength Defense Goals Above Average/Replacement) is 0.2. Among qualified starters, only Andrew Peeke (1.3) is higher.
Boqvist's GAR (Goals Above Replacement) is 3.4, second-highest behind Vladislav Gavrikov. Boqvist is also second in WAR (Wins Above Replacement – 0.6) and SPAR (Standing Points Above Replacement – 1.1).
Gavrikov and Boqvist have gotten to know each other quite well this season, working together as a second pairing. As Gavrikov has become a steady force on the blue line, he provides tutelage for Boqvist, and the latter shares thoughts on what he's learned from Gavrikov.
"I think just his ability to defend," Boqvist said. "He's a very strong guy and he does whatever it takes. He blocks shots, he does everything but he also has a good hockey IQ. He finds passes, he joins the rush, he's scoring points so it's good to have him next to me."
Throw Seth Jones into the mix and Boqvist is close in a lot of categories. Granted, Jones has double the amount of ice-time over Boqvist this season but it's a good sample size.
Offensively, according to Evolving-Hockey's player cards, they're giving the edge (prorated for this season) to Boqvist, who does have more goals than Jones' three, but Jones has 31 assists and the edge among defensive percentile rank among all qualified players.
Just like the team, Boqvist continues to grow his game, both offensively and defensively. There's a lot to like with what he has shown this year as he still plays out his first full NHL season.
Boqvist and the Blue Jackets return home to Nationwide Arena to complete their season series against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. They'll look to get two games over .500 and with a victory, would have compiled five wins in six games.