Injuries derailed the surprisingly competitive Vancouver Canucks in December, and they haven’t quite recovered just yet. Star players were hitting injured reserve left and right and Bo Horvat was hands-down the biggest loss.
Horvat suffered a fracture in his foot on Dec. 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes, but he has been cleared to practice and travel with the team and is expected to make his return very shortly.
#Canucks announce that Bo Horvat has been medically cleared to travel and will practice with the team in Edmonton tomorrow. He is expected to return to the lineup soon.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) January 18, 2018
This is very welcome news to a team that has struggled since they lost their star player.
Horvat Soaring Before the Injury
Before the injury, the 22-year-old superstar-in-the-making racked up 10 goals and 10 assists in his 28 games — five of his markers were recorded on the man advantage. He was on pace to shatter his previous season and career-high point total of 52 in 81 games.
Horvat was pretty much the only positive note of the 2016-17 Canucks and with little-to-no help, he kept Canucks fans’ hopes and dreams alive. This season, though, he has help and plenty of it when it comes to keeping the faithful happy. The Canucks were sitting third in the Pacific Division prior to the injury.
His partner in crime, Sven Baertschi was back along his side for this season and they added the new addition of the rookie sensation, Brock Boeser. Their line, known as “The B’s”, had Canucks fans, and NHL enthusiasts in general, buzzing with their stellar play and point production. Unfortunately, Horvat and Baertschi both went down with long-term injuries and “The B’s” buzzed no more. Just to paint a picture, up to this point and even with the injuries, the trio has accumulated 34 percent of the team’s goals.
Horvat was an instrumental member of the Canucks’ revamped power play, and following his injury, the production fell off. He was utilized in tight around the net and also in the corners, giving a secondary QB location on the power play. Horvat’s great skating and hockey IQ had him reaching loose pucks and finding open ice to create numerous scoring chances for himself and his linemates.
What to Expect from Horvat on His Return
The Canucks dropped 13 of the 17 games Horvat missed and are now above only the Arizona Coyotes in the Pacific.
A foot injury is one of the toughest to bounce back from in the game of hockey, for obvious reasons, so I wouldn’t expect a red-hot start from the London, Ontario product. Instead, I’m expecting a gradual rise back to where he was before he found himself on the IR.
He’ll certainly be back with Baertschi, but Boeser is a question mark at this point in time. As of late, Sam Gagner and Thomas Vanek have been lighting it up with Boeser on their line and Travis Green very well could decide to keep his lines, for the most part, intact. It’s a tough decision, for sure, because both line combinations have proven to be successful and productive — Green has got his work cut out for him.
He will, without a doubt, be back to the first power-play unit and I’d also like to see him get his overall ice time back to where it was quicker rather than later. But, we don’t know exactly how that foot is, so only time will tell just how much he can handle when he returns.
Horvat is the best player on the Canucks and I don’t think that can be debated — he plays both sides of the puck hard and has the ability to drastically change outcomes of hockey games. Even if he doesn’t finish this season with the level of production he had before the injury, he will still make the Canucks drastically better than they were without him.
Canucks Lineup with Horvat Back
Unfortunately, what I’m hoping for and what I believe will happen are two different things.
I believe that Horvat’s return will make a massive impact on the Canucks, both on and off the ice — I’ll go as far as saying that the Canucks will finish the rest of the season with a solid winning record and claw back to third or fourth in the Pacific. Hot take, I know.
As for the linemates debate, I’m going to say that Boeser will be staying with Vanek and Gagner but Horvat will be back alongside Baertschi. I believe that the Vanek/Gagner line will get more spotlight than Horvat’s line to start, but once Horvat starts showing shades of himself before the injury, ice time and line combinations will change.
I’m also going to predict that Horvat finishes the season with 18 goals and 49 points.
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.