If the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro haven’t quenched your thirst for international competition, then have no fear; the World Cup is here!
No, not that one. The hockey one.
The World Cup of Hockey kicks off in Toronto this September, featuring six national teams as well as a European All-Star team and a North American young stars club. North America is the odd one out in this eight team tournament, since they’re only able to use Canadian and American players under the age of 23. Nonetheless, Team North America general manager Peter Chiarelli has assembled a pretty solid cast of young players including Connor McDavid, Morgan Rielly, and Stanley Cup winning goalie Matt Murray.
But with any hand selected roster like the World Cup squads, there’s bound to be a debate about who was picked, or better yet, who wasn’t. Most people’s World Cup snub arguments have been reserved for why P.K. Subban didn’t make Team Canada or how come Phil Kessel wasn’t named to Team USA. As a Canucks fan, I feel our team is pretty well represented at this upcoming tournament; the Sedins and Markstrom are playing on Team Sweden, while Jannik Hansen and Luca Sbisa will suit up for Europe. But as I scrolled through the North American roster, I noticed one name was missing from the list, and that name is Bo Horvat.
Horvat was a bright spot on an otherwise dark 2015-16 campaign for the Canucks, playing in all 82 games and scoring 40 points along the way. The London, Ontario native is expected to be the cornerstone of the coming “Post-Sedins” era and is a fan favourite to be chosen as the next Canucks captain. Despite an excellent start to his NHL career and his experience at the international level playing for Canada in the 2014 World Juniors, Horvat wasn’t selected to join Team North American in Toronto and today we’ll discuss why.
Let’s start by looking at the full roster, helpfully presented in photo form by the team’s official Twitter page:
Team North America lives here for World Cup of Hockey 2016. #WCH2016 #TeamNA pic.twitter.com/htoKn4vCig
— Team North America (@TeamNA_WCH) August 17, 2016
The first thing to notice about the team is the surplus of centremen. Ten of the squad’s 13 forwards are natural centres, with a list that includes McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and 2016 first overall pick Auston Matthews. Adding Horvat in exchange for a current player wouldn’t add much in the centre depth chart, but would bring a much needed grittiness and playmaking ability. Horvat can both dig the puck out of corner scrums against hard checking opponents like the Russians and set up snipers in the attacking zone.
Another note about the squad is the overall goal scorers to playmakers ratio. The majority of North America’s players like to shoot the puck, and Horvat is the man who can feed it to them. Bo would make a great setup man both on the power play and at even strength, especially against defensive minded teams like the Czech Republic.
Of course it’s too late to add Horvat to the roster now, but a pre-tournament injury could open up a spot for him. If Chiarelli is faced with a last minute roster change, Bo would definitely be the best choice for a replacement. North America will in tough to win the whole tournament, but a player like Bo Horvat could be a tournament changer.