The Vancouver Canucks are in the midst of a youth movement. So, let’s take a look at the club’s top youngsters!
If the Vancouver Canucks want to make their ‘rebuild on the fly’ work, they need a strong foundation of young roster players. We all know the Bo Horvats and Ben Huttons of the team, but what’s after that? How are things for the AHL Utica Comets and what can we expect from the Canucks’ next crop of youngsters?
To answer those questions, our staff ranked all signed Vancouver Canucks players under the age of 25. After compiling a list of the top 10 Canucks prospects recently, this is all about who can help today. And guess what, the Canucks only have a total of 26 players under 25 signed and playing in North America right now.
Finally, we are reaching the No. 1 spot. With 24 players off the list, there are only two left: MacKenze Stewart and Bo Horvat. Now guess who’s No. 1 and who failed to make the top 25…
#1 – Bo Horvat
Team: Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
NHL Experience: 156 Games
How He Got Here
The story of how Bo Horvat made his way to the Vancouver Canucks is an interesting one. Not so much because of what he did personally, but because the Canucks didn’t originally own the draft pick they used to get him.
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Back in 2012, the Canucks had two solid goaltenders on their roster: Roberto Luongo, a Canucks and Team Canada legend, and American up-and-comer Cory Schneider. Luongo was always Vancouver’s guy, and he had an albatross contract. So when then-GM Mike Gillis had to make a decision, he was obviously going to keep Luongo and get rid of Schneider.
But it wasn’t quite that easy. Schneider clearly outplayed Luongo in the 2011-12 season, where he got 33 starts, and became the starter for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Because of that, it was Luongo who eventually requested a trade. However, it was also Luongo whose contract was unmovable for the longest time — and the Canucks had to find a solution.
So, at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, they found a way to be done with the situation. A simple trade: Cory Schneider for the ninth-overall pick in the draft, straight up.
The Canucks used that pick on center Bo Horvat, a prospect from the talent factory that is the London Knights organization. Horvat had always been a junior star, breaking into the Ontario Hockey League as a 16-year-old, appearing in 64 games that year. He followed that up with a 33-goal and 61-point sophomore season while being an extremely talented two-way player — an easy choice for the Canucks.
Where He Is Today
After the draft, Horvat spent just one more year in junior. He recorded 30 goals and 74 points in 54 games for the Knights while serving as an assistant captain for the team. There was nothing left to learn for him.
So, in the 2014-15 season, Horvat made the jump into the National Hockey League as a 19-year-old, playing 68 games as a rookie. Plus, of course, six playoff contests against the Calgary Flames. In the regular season, he had 13 goals and 25 points, but he really stood out in the playoffs, where he recorded a goal and three assists. Horvat still looked like a rookie, but he clearly belonged in the NHL.
Despite that, the plan was to bring him along slowly. But when newly acquired second-line center Brandon Sutter missed most of the 2015-16 campaign with injuries, Horvat had to step up. Second-line minutes plus time on both special teams, tons of tough match-ups with defensive-zone starts against NHL superstars. He struggled, but he managed.
Horvat ranked third on the Canucks in points, with 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points. Only the Sedin twins were better. After struggling mightily in the first half of the year, Horvat got gradually better and finished the season as a legitimate scoring threat. He finished second-last in plus-minus, but there is no doubt that he has a lot of defensive talent as well.
After just two seasons in the league, Horvat is already a leader on and off the ice. Despite his struggles in 2015-16, he has a great career ahead of him.
Where He Is Headed.
Sure, the Canucks just traded for Erik Gudbranson, the Florida Panthers’ ex-future captain. Gudbranson is a little older and more experienced, and probably also a pretty good captain. But come on, Horvat has Canucks captain written all over him.
At just 21 years old, Horvat is a well-respected person in the Canucks locker room. He is the kind of natural leader that even older players listen to. Some people are just like that, and Horvat is one of them. Of course, he will have to wait for Henrik Sedin to step down, i.e. retire (which could take another three or four years).
As to Horvat on the ice, it’s hard to say. Can he be a first-line center? Can he even be a full-time second-liner? Is he maybe more of a third-liner who eats up minutes but isn’t relied on as a big point producer? Well, those are the options.
Personally, I don’t think Horvat is a first-line player. But, I believe he can be a very good second-liner a la Ryan Kesler. There were times when Kesler was believed to be a potential first-line center, but in the end, he was always “just” a terrific second-liner. Which would be a great outcome for Horvat.
Bo Horvat is a fan favourite and a leader who will without a doubt have a long NHL career. He is also the kind of guy who would retire with the team that drafted him.