When the Canucks traded for Nick Bonino, he was immediately slated as the Canucks second line centre for the 2014-15 campaign. Through the first two months the trade seemed like a schrewd move by Jim Benning, but after a full season of work two things are abundantly clear:
- Bonino needs to shave the chin-strap because nothing can beat Higgins’ beard
- He won’t be the Canucks second line centre next season
Bonino was brilliant in the first two months of the season, which in retrospect brought some unfair criticism the rest of the way. He registered 19 points in 24 games through October and November, trailing only the Sedins’ for the team lead in points. If he maintained that pace he would have finished with 64 points. That would have blown away expectations for Bonino at the beginning of the season.
That same offensive instinct he flashed at the beginning of the year evaporated over the rest of the season. Bonino had 20 points in his next 51 games. If that was his scoring pace throughout the campaign then he would have finished with 32 points. That’s decent production for a third line centre, but not enough production to warrant second line ice time.
Bonino finished with 39 points on the year, compared to Kesler’s 47 points. With the upside of Luca Sbisa and Jared McCann, and the trade doesn’t look so sour after one season. However it might still sting for Canucks fans to watch Kesler elevate his game through round one of the playoffs with Anaheim.
The Canucks Second Line Centre for Next Season Is…
There shouldn’t be any surprise or any debate here. Horvat’s progression has him deserving of the chance to earn second line minutes next season.
From December onward, Horvat finished second on the team among centremen with 21 points. That is only one more point than Bonino’s 20, but Horvat accomplished this averaging almost 4:00 minutes less per game than Bonino.
Bonino’s linemates also were supposed to contributed more offensively than Horvat’s. For the majority of the season, Horvat played with a combination of Hansen, Dorsett, and Kenins. Bonino on the other hand mainly played with Vrbata, Higgins, and Burrows.
If Horvat was able to amass as many points as Bonino while playing with bottom six linemates, imagine what he could do if he is paired with Radim Vrbata next season?
Admittedly, it took Bo Horvat a while to find his groove in a Canucks uniform. During the Canucks end of the season press conference, Horvat said it took him until Christmas to settle in.
“I think my turning point was after Christmas. I started to make more plays and started to hang onto the puck a bit longer. I kind of felt like i could contribute to the offence a little more where at the beginning of the season i just wanted to prove that I could play well defensively and do things well in my own zone,” said Horvat.
Bonino, Horvat Share Similarities
While Horvat undoubtedly deserves the second line centre spot next season, both him and Bonino deserve some recognition for their defensive contributions to the team.
Horvat showed early on that he could go head to head against the other elite centres in the Western Conference, such Ryan Getzlaf and Anze Kopitar. If he showed that ability so early on in his career, there is no question that coach Desjardins shouldn’t have any hesitation putting him on the ice against other skilled centres in the future.
While Horvat held his ground against tough competition, it was Nick Bonino who faced the most skilled players on the opposing team for most of the season. According to behindthenet.ca, he faced the highest quality of competition among Canucks forwards during the regular season. In contrast, Horvat faced the third weakest competition, ahead of forwards Derek Dorsett and Linden Vey.
Both players are able to play on either side of the puck, but the potential that Horvat has to offer is one of the focal points heading into next season. He deserves the chance to showcase that potential on the second line next season.