Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat may not be the dynamic forward Elias Pettersson is, but he is definitely the glue that holds this upstart team together. Ever since he was drafted ninth overall in 2013, he was touted as a future captain armed with innate leadership abilities and an impressive two-way game in his arsenal.
Fast forward to 2020 and Horvat has transformed into one of the NHL’s top two-way centers and has taken full ownership of the captaincy that was bestowed on him at the beginning of the 2019-20 season. In fact, he is one of the reasons the Canucks are having so much success in the postseason right now. He already has four goals and six points and was the best player on both sides of the puck in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues, which of course impressed his head coach.
He [Horvat] was a horse tonight…He does a lot of things that a team needs to win and he’s playing his best when he’s playing a 200-foot game.Canucks head coach Travis Green
Horvat is built for the playoffs and has now proven to everyone that he can handle the rigors of this time of year while shouldering the load of the captaincy. He’s the emotional leader of this team and has shown up in clutch situations already, most recently in Game 4 against the Minnesota Wild. He also got the ball rolling in Game 1 against the Blues while helping to set the tone for the rest of the series.
Horvat is the horse that the Canucks will be riding throughout the playoffs. Though, that shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he’s always been a big-game player ever since his postseason debut in the Ontario Hockey League.
Bo Knows Playoff Success
Horvat is no stranger to playoff success, as he got to experience it early and often as a member of the powerhouse London Knights. At 16-years-old, he had his first taste of it and didn’t look out of place as he put up four points in 18 games. He followed that up with a monster performance in 2013, where he posted 16 goals and 23 points. That led all players in the playoffs, which in turn helped his team to a second-straight OHL championship. As a result, he won the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as playoff MVP which is the equivalent of the Conn Smythe Trophy in the NHL.
After becoming a prospect of the Canucks in 2013, he continued his playoff dominance in 2014 by scoring five goals and 11 points as his team got ousted in the second round. At a very young age, he was already foreshadowing the player he was going to become at the NHL level.
He’s a great competitor…He does everything you like to see. His penalty killing is very good, blocking shots. He’s effective every shift. He does something every shift to contribute to a win. He’s got good skill. He’s got pretty good finish around the net. I love his competitiveness. … He’s outstanding at winning faceoffs; he’s one of the best faceoff guys in the whole draft.Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting
If you didn’t know any better you would think he was describing Horvat right now, not as an 18-year-old.
Horvat’s NHL Postseason Debut
It didn’t take long for Horvat to get a chance to shine on the NHL’s biggest stage. At 19-years-old and in the midst of his rookie season, he was playing in his first NHL playoff series. He was sheltered in a fourth-line role by then-head coach Willie Desjardins but still managed to be surprisingly effective in his role. He won 60.9 percent of his faceoffs and even put up a goal and four points. Though just like his OHL playoff debut, that was just a preview of what was to come.
Horvat is Leading His Canucks With a Complete Game
Four seasons later, Horvat is picking up where he left off. He’s not the fourth line center with sheltered minutes anymore. He’s now the captain of the Canucks and Green’s most trusted center. He plays an average of 20 minutes every night in all situations while also being matched up against the opposing team’s top players. In addition to that, he takes and wins a lot of key faceoffs for his team too. So many so, that he finished 2019-20 in third place with 850 faceoff wins and 1,483 total faceoffs. Oh yes, he also scored 20 or more goals for the fourth straight time. He is without a doubt, the team’s most complete forward.
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The added responsibility has pushed Horvat’s game to new heights as he’s become one of the NHL’s best faceoff men and toughest centers to match up against. Not only that, but he has also shown the ability to step up in key situations in the postseason as well. The game against the Blues on Wednesday was without a doubt his best in a Canucks uniform as he drew comparisons to Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks after the game from former NHL defenceman Kevin Bieksa. In fact, even Toews himself admires what he brings to the ice every night.
Bo Horvat is a guy who I like because of the way he works. If you go head-to-head with a centreman like that, you’re not going to have an easy night.Jonathan Toews on Bo Horvat’s game (from ‘SNAPSHOTS: Canucks’ Horvat gets Toews nod as new Captain Serious’ Toronto Sun, 9/5/19)
Horvat has risen his game to new heights in these playoffs. His character, leadership, and competitive spirit have helped his Canucks become a dark horse in the Stanley Cup race this season. As we all know, the game he is bringing right now is tailor-made for postseason success. Just ask the Chicago Blackhawks or Boston Bruins how important a forward like him was to their respective Stanley Cup journeys.
Horvat Will Lead the Canucks to a Stanley Cup
As the leader of the Canucks’ exciting young core of Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Brock Boeser, Horvat has all the tools to lead his team to greatness. He will never be the superstar 100-point man, but he will be the consistent, two-way pivot that comes through in the clutch. Much like Toews and Trevor Linden, he elevates his game in the playoffs while bringing to the ice an emotional game everyone can rally around.
Horvat looks like he’s poised for greatness, and could be the engine that drives the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup. The belief is there, now the rest of the team has to just continue to follow their leader into what could be their longest playoff run since 2011.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.