Canucks army year in review bo horvat 3 gases in the atmosphere

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Coming into training camp, the big question surrounding Horvat was if incoming head coach Travis Green would give him the reins as the team’s primary offensive weapon. The 23-year-old may have eclipsed the Sedins’ point production in 2016/17, but the Twins were still the leaders of the pack when looking at ice-time and quality of competition.

Horvat’s deployment last season appeared more the part of a middle-six centre than a first-line pivot. The visuals perhaps undersell the concern over quality of competition given that last year’s data is skewed by the final 15-20 games of the season.

That closing stretch was accompanied by changes to the way that teams matched up against the Canucks. Opposing teams recognized the threat of the Horvat line and started deploying their top pair and checking lines with more regularity against them. Speculation that forewarned a performance dip with tougher competition rang true, with the former 9th overall pick unable to find the back of the net once in the final 17 games of the season.

A big reason for this stellar primary point production has been Horvat’s marked improvement in the way he’s utilized his teammates. Brock Boeser’s addition has been an obvious boon for the top-line, but Horvat’s shown development in his playmaking ability regardless.

The pertinent category in this instance is shot assists per hour and while the sample size for this year’s data is small, it’s supported to an extent with the eye test. Horvat’s definitely put an emphasis on better leveraging his teammates, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Horvat’s an elite puck distributor like the sample might suggest.

The team’s prodigious performance discrepancy makes sense from a logical standpoint when considering the structure that’s lost without Horvat in the lineup. The team relies on him to centre the first-line, play on the first power-play unit and kill penalties. When a player of that calibre goes down, it has a trickle-down effect on the rest of his teammates.

At even-strength, the Sedins were vaulted back onto the top-line and while they rose to the occasion, scoring close to a point per game in Horvat’s absence, the team won’t have that luxury next season. The substantive difference was felt with the second-line centre position– one that was taken on by a part-time centre in Sam Gagner. Soon thereafter Brandon Sutter went down with an injury as well and suddenly Nic Dowd was playing up to 17 minutes a night.

For all of Horvat’s offensive contributions, there remain glaring deficiencies in his defensive game. The team continues to operate at a net deficit with regards to controlling shot attempts while also surrendering nearly half a goal per hour extra with Horvat on the ice.

The 23-year-old creates a solvent differential on the scoresheet simply by outscoring his defensive issues. Horvat’s on-ice goals for rate of 3.21 per hour ranks him 49rd among NHL forwards and 20th among centres(minimum 400 minutes TOI) serves as a case in point.

Where Horvat did take a step forward defensively was with his play shorthanded. As I outlined in an analysis piece at the start of this season, the Canucks hemorrhaged unblocked shot attempts, goals, and high danger scoring chances at a disproportionately high rate with Horvat deployed in 2016/17. Simply put, he was one of the worst penalty killers in the league that year.

Horvat’s on-ice goals rate has traditionally remained pretty consistent relative to his expected mark. That trend was transcended this season where the Canucks produced four-fifths of a goal extra compared to the expected total with Horvat on the ice.

Underrated in the hype for Brock Boeser has been the progress that Bo Horvat made in his first season as the team’s number one centre. Horvat’s scoring pace increased for a fourth consecutive season, turning out to 56 points if prorated over a full season. This came in spite of the tougher matchups he ended up facing.

Horvat’s even-strength defensive profile leaves something to be desired, though strides in his own zone were made shorthanded. All in all, it was a solid season of development– one that delivered results you might expect out of a fringe first-line centre.

Agreed Bo is a buy and will be the heart and soul of the team. He may not get a scoring title but will go out and work his butt off. Was a tough year to gauge how he is as a number 1 center from getting injured himself to losing his wingers to injury. When the Canucks make the playoffs again he will be the driver and will take the team on his back and drive the play. Kessler had a mean streak where Bo does not and it was Kesslers mean streak that kept him from being truly great as it made him lose focus. Where Bo just keeps driving the play,he has the respect of his team mates where Kessler did not as he was a selfish player and was always about Kessler. Hope that Canucks get that elite center who can score as that would take a lot of the heat away from Bo as Bo is not that high scoring center he is a work horse who can do everything asked of him.

I think the Canucks would have still been in the hunt for a playoff spot if Bo had not been injured as when he went down so did the team and it took awhile for the team to get it back without Bo. I think McDavid is learning a lot from Bo at the World Championship, not the other way around. Bo is more of a natural leader through hard work and earned respect, where as McDavid is a superstar with elite talent which does not always translate into being a leader except on the score sheet. Perhaps Bo can get McDavid wanting to join him in Vancouver in the future.