The Vancouver Canucks came back to win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night after being down 2-0. Captain Bo Horvat scored the first goal for the Canucks, giving him 20 goals on the season, and then assisted Tyler Toffoli’s overtime game-winning goal.
Horvat has stepped up when his team needs him the most this season. He has shown that he has the leadership skills needed to lead the young core to success.
Before Horvat even made his Canucks debut, he had pressure on him. The franchise had traded Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the ninth overall pick in 2013, and used the pick to draft Horvat. Schneider was the goalie of the future since the team intended to trade Roberto Luongo. General manager Mike Gillis had trouble trading Luongo’s contract, though, and had to trade the 26-year-old goalie instead of the 34-year-old.
The pressure came from the hope that the Canucks picked a player with equal value to Schneider. The pressure on Horvat would continue into his rookie season as expectations of the young forward were high due to the lack of other prospects in the pipeline. He was the first prospect that panned out for the franchise in some time and has stuck around, while Schneider has had injury issues over the past few seasons.
Longest Tenure of Young Core
The Canucks have a young core consisting of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, and Horvat. Among the four, Horvat has been with the franchise the longest. He played alongside the old core of the team. In his first season, Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Jannik Hansen, and Henrik and Daniel Sedin were all on the team.
Burrows, Hansen and the Sedins played with the young forward longer than the others and had the opportunity to mentor him. He got to see how the last group of core players that made it to the Stanley Cup Final carried themselves game in and out.
Primed to Carry on the Sedins Legacy
The Sedin twins played 17 seasons in the NHL and for four of those seasons stuck around to mentor the next young core. Horvat was the first player to be mentored by the Canucks legends. In his first training camp, then-head coach John Tortorella stated he was not sure if the ninth-overall pick would play in the NHL due to his lack of speed. Tim Horvat, Bo’s father, said his son would watch the Sedin twins work hard and was inspired to improve his skating and speed. He witnessed the brothers at the tail end of their peak playing years. The 2014-15 season was Horvat’s rookie season and was the last time the twins would hit the 70-point mark in their careers.
Henrik and Daniel influenced Horvat through the advice they’ve given him. In Horvat’s sophomore season he had a 27-game goalless drought. Henrik took the time to let the sophomore know that he and Daniel both went through similar slumps early on in their careers.
“I think about it all the time,” Horvat said before his coronation. “To have somebody of that stature come up to me and say he’s been there and actually done a lot worse, to expose yourself like that to bring somebody else up… I’ll never forget that. I’ll remember that the rest of my life.”
Consistent Improvement from Bo
Horvat has continued his progress in his sixth season. He is on pace for 26 goals and 65 points this season, which is a four-point increase from last season. His Corsi-For percentage (CF%) is up 1.2 percent, from 54.8 percent in 2018-19 to 56 percent in 2019-20, which means that when Horvat is on the ice, his line has control of the puck more often than not.
He has been a road warrior for the Canucks this season as he struggled to score at home early on in the season. His success on the road was highlighted when he scored his first career hat-trick in a comeback win against the Detroit Red Wings. During a four-game losing streak earlier in the season, Horvat wouldn’t let his own struggles bring the team down.
“You wear that burden on your shoulders. You want to be the best leader you can be, on and off the ice. You want to be that guy who scores a big goal or gets the team going offensively. And right now, it’s just not happening for me. I’m just trying to be a positive guy in the room and not let this get me down.”
Time to Lead the Team to the Playoffs
In his first season as captain, Horvat aims to reach the playoffs for the second time in his career. It potentially could be the first time the Canucks reach the playoffs since his rookie season. The team has been drafting in the top 10 since 2016, and finally has a chance to make it to the postseason.
With their young core developing and the club adding key pieces like J.T Miller in the offseason, the Canucks seem as if they will make it. If they do make the playoffs this season, Horvat’s first season as captain will be a proven success.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.