It’s no secret the Vancouver Canucks have relied heavily on their young core to keep the season respectable. Bo Horvat, the 23-year-old center now in his fifth season, is emerging as one of the better-kept secrets in the NHL.
Vancouver has had an up-and-down season. They have shown potential in flashes as being an up-and-coming force in the NHL. But in other showings, they demonstrate how much work still needs to be done. The team has some elite-level young talent, yet they also have a severe lack of secondary scoring and a strong defensive core.
Secondary scoring, primary issue.
When you put the entire weight of an offense on the shoulders of three players (all under the age of 23)— you’re going to have issues. The team’s de facto captain, Bo Horvat, is tied in goals (27) with rookie sensation Elias Pettersson. Brock Boeser sits in second (25), but you have to scroll all the way down to Jake Virtanen (14) to find the next best source of goals.
However, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson have had the luxury of being paired together frequently. More often than not, Horvat is by his lonesome. Making his career-high in goals (27) and points (57) despite enduring different forward combinations all season a little more impressive.
Horvat vs the NHL
The NHL has no shortage of elite centers and Horvat lines up with almost every last one of them. In fact, there is not a center in the league busier than Bo Horvat. He’s first in the league in face-offs taken with 1867 (via puckbase.com), winning an impressive 53.8% of his draws.
Vancouver ranks amongst the worst teams in scoring; sitting 23rd in goals for, and 18th in goals against. Despite those abysmal team numbers, Horvat has been able to hold his own against the premier lines in the NHL. Rocking a (+/-) of -5 and taking into consideration what Horvat plays with and against, that’s not bad.
To put into perspective, compare him with Panthers star center Aleksander Barkov. Barkov, (who’s also 23-years-old). Barkov this season is putting up a career-high 87 points while playing for an underwhelming team much like Horvat. However, though his stats are gaudy, Barkov has a (+/-) of -9.
Though unfair to compare the two players and where their careers are at respectively, it illustrates the importance of Bo Horvat.
The friendliest contract in the league?
We live in an era in North American sports where lucrative player contracts are the norm. The NHL (though having a strict salary cap), is no different. You look at every team in the league, you see a contract that sticks out as unflattering. So when you get a player that has all the intangibles, for a reasonable price, you are in the driver’s seat. Bo Horvat is accounted for until the conclusion of the 2022-23 season for just 5.5 million per season.
Now compare that to fellow teammate Loui Eriksson’s contract. Eriksson was made a healthy scratch in a game recently and has underperformed tremendously as a member of the team. Yet he’s billed for 6 million per season until 2021-22.
Future is bright in the Pacific Northwest
Bo Horvat’s efforts may not go universally acknowledged in the NHL spectrum, but his contributions are going to make noise moving forward. Last year’s 7th overall pick, Quinn Hughes, is slated to make his anticipated debut soon. They have another high draft pick bound for them when the Canucks host this year’s draft. And with the luxury of having plenty of cap space and a solid goaltending duo, the Canucks (barring disaster) are on the rise.