Vancouver Canucks youngster Bo Horvat has a goal: he wants to be a No. 1 center in the NHL one day.
For Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat, the 2016-17 campaign had its ups and downs. The 21-year old from Rodney, Ontario, set career highs in goals (16), assists (24) and points (40). However, it was quite obvious that he wasn’t ready for the number of defensive-zone starts and time against opposing top lines that he had to go through. The plus-minus stat is flawed, but ranking second-last in the league as a minus-30 is bad whichever way you put it.
But, it is part of the learning process, and Horvat believes he can be a No. 1 center one day.
What’s a True No. 1?
"I want to be the guy the team knows will play well and a guy that everybody relies on. Whether that’s playing well defensively and shutting down a big line or contributing offensively, I obviously want to be a No. 1 centre some day, but Hank (Henrik Sedin) and Sutter are doing a great job. I’m just going to keep pushing the pace and push them as well."
What is a true No. 1?
That is a question we often hear, but it is usually about defensemen. Are there 30 true No. 1 defensemen in the NHL, meaning every team has one? Can a team have more than a single No. 1 defenseman? What’s the definition?
But whatever your definition might be, one thing is clear: to play on a top line — defense or offense — you have to be good. I’m talking ‘real good’.
Vancouver Canucks fans don’t even really know what it’s like to be searching for a top-line center 24/7, like it’s been the case for teams like the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. In 2005-06, Henrik Sedin recorded 75 points. Ever since then, he was the club’s No. 1, and he was one of the best in the league.
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But now, Henrik is aging and the Canucks are starting to look for a replacement. They had their eyes on Pierre-Luc Dubois at the 2016 NHL draft, but he got picked up by the Columbus Blue Jackets third overall. Since Vancouver dealt Jared McCann to the Florida Panthers, we are left with Bo Horvat being the only real option for the job.
But can he be a true No. 1?
In his interview with Ben Kuzma, Horvat said he “obviously wants to be a No. 1 center dome day” and that is the only thing he could or should say. Confidence is everything. But it doesn’t necessarily qualify him for the job.
A two-way center with speed and skill, Horvat could one day turn into a player like Ryan O’Reilly, who was acquired by the Buffalo Sabres to center their top line. That would be a terrific player to have, especially with Horvat’s leadership skills. In 2015-16, O’Reilly had 60 points in 71 games, which would be 69 points in an 82-game season. That doesn’t sound like that much, but only eight players reached one point per game, so 69 in a full season would be quite good.
Looking at top-line centers around the league, it becomes clear that not everyone scores at a point-per-game pace, and star players like John Tavares come in at “only” 70 points. So if Horvat ever reaches those numbers while being a good two-way player, he could most certainly be considered a No. 1 center and play on Vancouver’s top line.
Perhaps, the definition I am talking about is not that of a true No. 1 center, but rather that of an elite center.
I don’t expect Horvat to ever reach 80 points in a single season. But that doesn’t mean he’ll never be a No. 1 center — it just means he won’t be a Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton or Tyler Seguin.