Bo Horvat: What Can We Expect?


Not many injuries in life are convenient. This summer I gave myself whiplash trying to dive through inner tubes into a lake. It was unpleasant feeling soreness in muscles I didn’t really know I had, especially when trying to sleep. It was all very off-putting.

Bo Horvat’s injury, on the other hand,  has actually been somewhat convenient. Not for him, I’m sure, but it hasn’t been so bad for the team, and even for his development. How else could he have gotten the opportunity to spend some time playing with the Utica Comets? His young age means that the Canucks would have been required, after 9 games played, to either keep him or send him directly to the CHL for the season. They will still have to make that decision when he returns to the club, but his injury has meant some extra playing time with the AHL unit and ultimately a longer time to get acclimatized to the organization.

With Horvat’s regular season debut with the big club coming on Sunday, I thought we would take a look at what we can expect to see from Horvat this year. We’ll do this by suggesting a few potential scenarios for his return. We’ll look at three scenarios: the best case, the worst case, the most likely. And for a bonus we’ll look at the least likely scenario, which will be ridiculous. You have been warned.

Best Case Scenario

Horvat is pegged as a reliable, defensively minded two-way center. Canucks Army did an excellent prospect profile on him earlier this year, where they suggested that he could be “at least a 3rd line center” with the kind of upside that could push him to be a quality 2nd line center. What does that mean in terms of production? Their analysis of comparable forwards based on CHL stats suggests an average of about .44 points per game for players in the prime of their careers. This would work out to about 36 points in 82 games. They suggest, and I agree, that Horvat has the potential to be better than the average. Their assessment, however, does help get a sense of where we can at least begin to place our expectations.

The first step in the best case scenario is that Horvat sticks with the club. The most important skill he can bring immediately is face off success. The Canucks are currently sitting at 28th in the league in face off percentage, with 45.7%. If Horvat can come in and consistently win face offs, he can help this team. In terms of points, I think a realistic best case scenario for a complete rookie season would be somewhere in the range of 10-20. Willie Desjardins seems more intent on playing his bottom six than Tortorella was, so Horvat should have a chance to put some points on the board.

Best case scenario: Horvat stays with the Canucks, keeps a face off percentage above 50% for the season, and scores somewhere between 10-20 points.

Worst Case Scenario

Sticking with realistic options here, I see two worst cases. The first would be another injury. Horvat is still young and physically developing. The grind of playing against full-grown NHL players can cause damage to a young player’s body. Horvat’s current injury is a case in point. The Canucks will be looking to protect him from injury as much as possible, but these things are unpredictable.

The second worst case scenario would be ineffective play. It is slightly concerning that through four games Horvat has not scored any points in the AHL. This is a small sample size, but it is something the team is likely keeping an eye on. Unfortunately the AHL doesn’t seem to track face off stats, because that would be a helpful counterbalance to weighing Horvat’s contribution in points. The Canucks don’t need him to be a high scorer, especially in his rookie season, but they probably will expect some kind of contribution. If he can’t get himself on the scoresheet in any meaningful way after nine games, the club may decide another trip to the OHL would be best for his development.

Worst case scenario: Horvat isn’t ready. This really wouldn’t be a disaster for him in the long run, but it would mean his NHL career would have to wait another year.

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Most Likely Scenario

Horvat has the kind of talent, intensity and potential to stick around with the Canucks this year. We shouldn’t expect a Calder season from him (although that would be nice), but it is likely he can be a better option on the third or fourth line than players like Sestito or Matthias.

Least Likely Scenario

Horvat is enjoying a peaceful flight to Vancouver to join the team. He is about to doze off when the passenger next to him, a professor, taps him on the shoulder. “I should warn you,” he says, “there’s been significant evidence that this plane is at risk for chrono-turbulence.” The professor looks eager to explain, as professors are wont to do, but Horvat just shrugs and closes his eyes. “Surely there’s no such thing as chrono-turbulence,” he thinks. “I mean, time-travel is only a pipe dream, the stuff of science fiction.” Bo eventually falls in to a peaceful sleep, until it is interrupted by a loud “BANG.” The plane lurches forward. The professor beside him, once a handsome middle aged man, is aging before his eyes! Horvat looks around. Everyone is aging! He looks at his hands: they don’t wrinkle at all. “What is happening?” he screams. The other passengers, however, have aged right out of existence. Horvat runs to the cockpit. The pilots have disintegrated to dust. “Chrono-turbulence,” Horvat thinks to himself, “the professor was right!” With some skill and a little luck, Horvat manages to land the plane and get himself out through an emergency exit. He surveys the city around him. Hover cars zip over his head. The dark Vancouver night is lit up by several space age buildings and signs bearing an alien language. “Well,” he thinks to himself, “I hope they still have hockey.”

How do you think Horvat will do this year? Share your thoughts (or scenarios) in the comments!