What seemed like a sophomore slump destined to end in a tone of “there’s always next year” Bo Horvat has exploded out of his shell and into the Canucks most trusted source of secondary scoring. For now. The most intriguing part of his recent production is that when Horvat scores the Canucks always have a chance to win. He’s only managed to tally in six contests this year, three of those coming in his last six games but the Canucks have gone 3-1-2 when he’s been able to score. More importantly Horvat scores when the team needs it most. Three of his eight goals this year have been game winners. Impressive Bo…quite impressive.
After a short-lived hot start out of the gates the Canucks have been desperate for any kind of consistency this year. The only nightly producers have been the Sedin twins and the defensive lineup has had to deal with serious injury after serious injury. Not something that is usually conducive to success.
But one of the team’s biggest vulnerabilities may have just been answered by Mr. Bo Horvat. When the team has needed secondary scoring no one has answered. Until recently.
The line combination of Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi has ignited both of those player’s production, something that is key to the Canucks having any shot at a playoff spot. With Horvat’s two goal game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night he’s now put up nine points in his last six contests along with Sven Baertschi recording eight points in his last ten games. Between the two of them they combined for eleven goals in the last ten games.
Horvat Scores, Baertschi Scores, Sedins Take a Deep Breath
Somehow, someway the Canucks have managed to remain in the playoff scene. Most notably because of the 35-year-old Sedin twin’s inhuman play this year. They’ve had to carry the burden of both being the team’s leading (and only) consistent producers meanwhile they’ve played significant defensive roles on the penalty kill at times. It has to be tiring both mentally and physically.
It seems, for the moment at least, that reinforcements are on their way in the form of Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi and that is an unexpected comfort for Henrik and Daniel Sedin. In the last 10 games Henrik and Daniel have combined for eleven points (4g-7a). In the same time frame Horvat and Baertschi have put up 17 points (11g-6a). So while the doomsday theorists might already be penciling Horvat and Baertschi above the Sedins on the Canucks depth chart, there is a lot more significance to this current situation than just the points.
The kid is definitely showcasing his scoring ability and what made him the 9th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
At 35-years-old the Sedins are going to dry up every once in a while. It’s just reality. Even players like Jamie Benn, Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane go through dry spells. It’s whether or not the Canucks have armed themselves with players who can pick up the slack when the twins need a recharge. And it seems like Horvat and Baertschi might be filling that role in large part due to Henrik and Daniels superior mentoring. The goal above and the mechanics that surround it, like Horvat’s keen sense of where to be on the breakout and his patience with the shot are results of careful coaching and mentoring. Something many young players don’t have the luxury of in the NHL.
Keeping Horvat & Co. Humble
It’s only been a few weeks since Horvat really started coming on strong so it’s hard to say whether or not this is a sustainable situation. But let’s say it is, and that Horvat’s production levels out from this explosion and continues at a truly secondary rate (between .5-.6 points per game) for the rest of the year. At that rate Horvat would be a 40-point man and could likely boost the Canucks into a playoff spot, especially if Baertschi’s scoring remains connected to Horvat’s.
The problem any team has with a young player who finds themselves in a big role and producing big numbers is keeping them sane and humble after they’ve realized they’re own potential. For the Canucks that really shouldn’t be a problem for one very specific reason: Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
‘Hank and Dank’ as some fans refer to them are two of the best professionals in the game and they’ve done a more than stellar job with bringing along the Canucks heavily youthful roster this year while still putting themselves in contention for the playoffs. They’ve been able to carry Horvat, Ben Hutton, Jared McCann and Sven Baertschi through tough stretches only to continue developing.
They simply don’t get enough credit, but that’s for another day.
So in that regard Jim Benning has done a top notch job of both drafting young professionals who are up for the challenges that an NHL career holds, guys like Bo Horvat and also keeping a Canucks roster that has veterans of the highest integrity and standards.
The Potential of Bo Horvat
From day one on NHL ice Horvat looked like a pro. He won face-offs in his first year in the league, he scored goals, played in big defensive moments and most of all he performed better than anyone in the Canucks 2015 first round playoff series against the Calgary Flames. After 27 games without a goal in 2015-16 Horvat didn’t just snap his streak, he’s done it in an overwhelming fashion and if Horvat scores like this for the rest of the season he could very well begin to fill Ryan Kesler’s big shoes come 2016-17.
Whew, wipe the sweat from your brow, that’s a big hole to fill. But Horvat’s got all the right ingredients including one that’s already superior to Kesler. Horvat has a workers attitude. He’s a team guy and his youth is reflected in his pure excitement at being a part of the league.
Horvat may never be a 40-goal scorer but that’s just fine. If Horvat scores 20-30 a year but is the type of guy that can shut down the other 29 first-line centers, he’s worth a whole lot more. Anybody remember a guy named Jonathan Cheechoo?
He’s learning from the best and it’s nothing but up from here for Horvat, except for a few more inevitable droughts…that hopefully last less than 27 games.
I cover all things Vancouver Canucks, the NHL’s player conduct policies and anything else exciting about the league.