Throughout the course of the season, Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat has seen many wingers playing on his line — but who’s the best fit for the man his teammates call Bison?
Vancouver Canucks‘ center Bo Horvat has taken huge strides in his development since he was drafted at the 2013 NHL draft, when the Canucks shipped out Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils in order to acquire the ninth overall pick.
Tabbed as the future captain of a young Canucks team, Horvat has exceeded all expectations that were set for him. Horvat has struggled with consistency throughout the year, but this is partly due to having a seemingly endless carousel of wingers on his line almost all season.
There have been times where Tim Schaller and Loui Eriksson been on Horvat’s line. Mind you, when he was on that line, Schaller picked up four assists in the process. Through this carousel of wingers, however, the question needs to be asked, who compliments Horvat’s game best?
The quick and simple answer is Sven Baertschi. The two have had success together in the past, most memorably last year on the “Triple B” line featuring Baertschi, Horvat and then rookie, Brock Boeser.
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Baertschi has been battling concussion problems for the majority of this season and Boeser has newfound chemistry with Canucks’ superstar rookie Elias Pettersson. For those reasons, neither Baertschi or Boeser will be included in the running for potential linemates for Horvat — for now.
With all that being said, who are the best linemates for Horvat?
Antoine Roussel and Jake Virtanen
Signed to a four-year deal with an annual average salary of $3 million last July, Antoine Roussel has proven to be a key piece in this year’s team. Garnering style of play comparisons to former Canucks’ agitator Alex Burrows, Roussel appears to be one of the more key signings general manager Jim Benning has made.
Roussel and Horvat seemed to have found some chemistry together, and I like the two of them together, but who should Horvat see when he looks to his right?
I say Jake Virtanen. The young forward got off to a hot start to the season and was on pace to hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. Currently sitting at 12 goals, with just 23 games remaining, there’s still a slim chance that Virtanen reaches the 20 goal mark.
A line with Jake’s speed and the combined grit of him and Roussel, along with Horvat’s speed and power, makes for a good line.
Nikolay Goldobin and Zack MacEwen
What about if Nikolay Goldobin is slotted into the line? Horvat, Goldobin, and Roussel is a line we are seeing with the recent injury of Virtanen. This line was in action Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks, and although neither Horvat or Goldobin picked up an assist on Roussel’s opening goal, the line did perform relatively well together.
Another player I’d like to see given a look with Horvat is Zack MacEwen. After Canucks fans clamoured for the young Charlottetown native to be called up from the Utica Comets, the young winger finally made his NHL debut for the Canucks on February 11th against the San Jose Sharks.
In his debut, MacEwen was put on a line with Horvat and Roussel. Despite it being a well-documented blowout loss for the Canucks and 19-year-old goaltender Michael DiPietro, MacEwen picked up the first assist of his NHL career on a soft saucer pass in the slot to set up Derrick Pouliot.
The many they call “the big fella” may just be the regular right winger that Horvat can look to build some chemistry with.
As much as I like both of MacEwen and Goldobin, I believe the best regular linemates for Horvat are Roussel and Virtanen — for the time being. But while the Canucks await the return of Virtanen, I wouldn’t mind seeing MacEwen be given an extended look on Horvat’s wing.
In my opinion, Roussel and Virtanen are the best wingers for Horvat in the absence of Baertschi — but I want to know who you all think is the best fit for him! Let me know in the comments section below.