Canucks Bo Horvat Emerging as One of NHL’s Most Underrated Centers

Over the past 10 games, Bo Horvat has been one of the best players on the Vancouver Canucks. He is providing offence, killing penalties and hemming the opposition in their own zone. The captain is starting to heat up, which bodes well for a Canucks team trying to fight for a playoff spot. Based on the last 10 games, it is safe to say he is emerging as one of the NHL’s most underrated centers.

Improvement on Defensive Zone Faceoffs

Winning faceoffs is a vital part of any team’s success, especially in the defensive zone. Winning the draw in the defensive zone allows a team to collect the puck and clear it out rather than scramble into position and hope the opposition doesn’t fire a one-timer off the draw. This is one area that Horvat has improved in the last 10 games.

Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks
Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Through the first 28 games of the season, Horvat had a faceoff win percentage of 52.4% in the defensive zone. Being over 50% is fantastic, but he has taken his defensive zone faceoff game to a whole other level these last 10 games with a 62.8% faceoff win percentage. For reference, only two players who have taken over 40 draws during that time frame, Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Strome, have a higher win percentage.

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Horvat has always been an elite faceoff taker in the NHL, but the defensive zone draw has always been a weak spot for him. Coming into the season, he had a career win percentage of 51.0% on defensive zone draws, with his best season coming in 2017-18, where he registered a 56.2% win percentage in his own defensive zone. Overall, he has been good throughout his career on defensive zone draws, but these last 10 games have shown he can excel at an elite level. The Canucks currently rank 13th in the league when it comes to defensive zone faceoff percentage, and a big reason is due to the captain’s play.

Horvat Thriving on the Penalty Kill

Since Dec. 12, no forward on the Cancuks has more penalty kill time than Horvat. During his 11:55 of ice time, the Canucks have only surrendered two goals and have kept the opposition to five high danger chances against. Most teams are going to generate shots on the power play, but limiting high danger chances has been a big reason the penalty kill of the Canucks has seen a dramatic jump since Boudreau took over. The penalty kill isn’t perfect, but letting the captain kill penalties is a move that has proven successful these last 10 games.

Scoring Game Has Picked Up

Horvat has excelled these last 10 games at the most important statistic, scoring goals. He had seven goals over his first 28 games, which was ranked third on the team. During the last 10 games, he has six goals which rank first during that time span. This includes four power-play goals which is a big reason the Canucks are 6-3-1 in their last 10.

A big reason behind the increase in offence is an increase in shots on goal for Horvat. Over the first 28 games, he averaged 2.54 shots per game. In his last 10, that number has skyrocketed to 3.7 per game. If he can keep this pace, and continue to generate over 3.5 shots per game, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he can break his career-best of 27 goals in a season and finally eclipse the 30 goal mark.

Canucks Least Talked About Superstar

This season, most of the Canucks talk has revolved around players like Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko, with not much praise being heaped on the captain. This could be that Canuck fans and media have gotten so used to him stepping up time after time that he has become an afterthought. Regardless, Horvat deserves his due as he is quietly becoming one of the most underrated centermen in the NHL.

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