All-Star Horvat is Canucks Present and Future

With the NHL announcing Bo Horvat as a representative for the Pacific Division in the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, it’s proof that the Canucks’ 21 year-old centerman has finally arrived as the face of the franchise. What Canucks fans and analysts have been saying for over a calendar year, Horvat is the team’s best player, is finally gaining league-wide acceptance.

A No-Brainer No Longer

In recent years, the NHL hasn’t had to think too deeply when selecting a player or two from the Canucks. With the exception of the relatively off-the-radar selections of Radim Vrbata in 2015 and Alex Edler in 2012, the league has had their pick of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler. Before them, the league had Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Ed Jovanovski to choose from. The biggest difference between Horvat and the players mentioned above with regard to All-Star selections? He’s the youngest Canuck to be selected for the All-Star Game since 1991 when Trevor Linden was chosen.

Canucks fans, and heck even the Canucks marketing department, will talk at length about Horvat being the future of the team. But a quick review of his play and the resulting statistics over this season and that back-half of last season shows that he’s also the team’s present.

A Breakout Campaign

For the first time in over a decade, there’s a very good chance that the leading scorer of the Canucks at the end of the season will have a name other than ‘Sedin.’ Horvat leads his team with 29 points in 42 games played, with Henrik Sedin not far behind the pace with 26 points in 42 games played. Of course, Horvat plays fewer minutes per game than Henrik, having to battle Brandon Sutter and fend off Markus Granlund for second line minutes.

While it’s unlikely that Horvat surpasses Henrik in ice-time this season, it’s clear that a changing-of-the-guard is happening before our eyes. If you assume that Henrik’s and Daniel’s production is on the decline, it won’t take long for their ice-time to follow in accordance.

Should Have Seen it Coming

Going back over his past 82 games, Horvat is far and away the leader in terms of point production among Canucks forwards. His 54 points puts him head and shoulders above Henrik’s 47 and Daniel’s 46.

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Horvat’s emergence this season shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but there was some genuine concern about head coach Willie Desjardins’ usage of him last season. With Brandon Sutter injured for much of the season, Desjardins relied heavily on Horvat in defensive situations, to the point where Horvat wasn’t able to create offence the way he has this season. With Sutter back in the lineup and the emergence of Granlund as a fairly reliable third line center, Horvat has been able to drive offence more consistently and deliver on the flashes that he’s shown in his previous campaigns.

Hollywood Nights

For a team that’s struggling to maintain relevance and find an identity, Horvat’s All-Star Game selection is important for Canucks fans. It signals a new direction.

But what does an NHL All-Star Game selection mean for Bo Horvat?

Well, financially it means a nice $212,500 bonus that will push his annual salary north of $1 million. But it’s also chance for him to show off his game to the league on a bigger stage.

With a 3-on-3 structure and potential linemates like Connor McDavid, Jeff Carter, Johnny Gaudreau, Ryan Kesler and Joe Pavelski, Horvat could make some serious noise at this year’s event.

One thing’s for sure, though; Canucks fans will be counting on him that night and many, many more nights in the future.