No. 1: Perfecting the Development of Bo Horvat
Bo Horvat is the biggest piece to the Vancouver Canucks’ puzzle. He also is the most established piece to the puzzle right now. Drafted ninth overall in the draft preceded by Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Drouin, Sean Monahan, and Darnell Nurse, he might be the one under most pressure to develop into a franchise player.
Horvat’s Keyword: Confidence
Horvat should know by now that this is his team five years, ten years from now. He is a lock on the top-six, and he is the only one with the potential to become a first-line centreman from what we can see.
In each of his NHL seasons, he had to grind out the first half before making Vancouver “Bo-lieve” in the second half. He needs to stay confident in his dry first halves, turn on his engine a little sooner in the season, and know that he is the “next one” on Vancouver ‘s agenda.
Depth Chart: 2C Struggles vs. Brandon Sutter
Currently on the Canucks’ depth chart, Horvat is battling Brandon Sutter for the second-line centre spot. Above him is Henrik Sedin, the captain and the undisputed star of the team. Horvat should have no doubts whatsoever that if he works hard, that Captain Hank’s spot will be his in a few years’ time.
What Vancouver Needs to Do
Get Horvat a strong right winger. Radim Vrbata has done an admirable job playing with Horvat after he started out his Canuck tenure as the third Sedin. Now that Vrbata is set to leave Vancouver after this season, it is going to be crucial for Vancouver to import and grow a top-six calibre right winger for Sven Baertschi and Horvat to work with.
The right winger should be a catalyst on that line to get it working sooner rather than later in the season.
Give Horvat all the opportunity to trump Sutter. Sutter and Horvat are pretty similar players. They are both defensively strong and speedy in their different ways. But Horvat is built as a stronger scorer than Sutter is.
If Horvat were to trump Sutter, he will need to trump him on the scoring department. Bo showed just recently that he can do that. It is on coach Willie Desjardins to utilize him more offensively now that Sutter is back and Linden Vey‘s line is carrying a fair bit defensively.
What Horvat Needs to Do
Don’t just try to overcome Sutter, work with him. Two things. Firstly, there is no need for Horvat to view Sutter as any form of a threat. Refer to the part about being confident. Secondly, while Horvat is a late-season player, Sutter is showing that he can produce early in the season, scoring eight points in the first 16 games of the season. Solving his first-half struggles will be key.
Next: No. 2: Perfecting the Development of Jake Virtanen