As we pass the quarter mark of the Canucks 2016-17 season, one fact has become very clear; Bo Horvat knows hockey.
In the 2005-06 Canucks campaign, team captain Markus Naslund led the team in points with 79. The following year, Daniel Sedin won the club scoring title with 84 points while brother Henrik landed second place with 81. Nine seasons later, no Canucks player not named Sedin has ever placed higher on the season points list than third. But even so early into this season, a very real threat to that record has arrived in the form of Horvat. In 25 games he’s recorded eight goals and eight assists for 16 points, tying him with Henrik for the team lead. The way Horvat has climbed up the ladder has made him an early favourite as the Canucks’ most valuable player.
It’s hard to imagine now that in the Canucks’ season opener against the Calgary Flames, Horvat centered the fourth line between noted Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett; a move that had fans and analysts alike scratching their heads. Compare that to last week’s game against the Minnesota Wild, where Horvat played the third line centre role and picked up a goal to extend a season high five game point streak.
Horvat has been a crucial piece to keeping the Canucks’ ship afloat, with injuries to key players including Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen threatening to blow a massive hole in the hull. One of the skills he’s brought to the table is an amazing knack for creating opportunities out of thin air. On multiple occasions this season, a basic looking non-play has been disrupted through Horvat taking control of the puck and finding a path to the net undetected by the opponents.
Being one of Horvat’s linemates has its perks too. Sven Baertschi had a rocky start to his season, but being paired up with Bo has reignited his scoring touch. Of the 11 points Baertschi has picked up this season, Horvat has been on the scoresheet for seven of them. Meanwhile fellow winger Alex Burrows’ point totals have been on the downturn for the past four years, yet he already has 10 points this season with Bo being involved in eight.
Whether Bo Horvat will continue scoring at this pace or not is anyone’s guess, but this start means a whole lot to Canucks fans. With every single point from Horvat that finds its way to the back of the net, the future draws nearer and nearer. Even in a locker room with veterans like the Sedins, Burrows and Ryan Miller, Horvat has already become a leader for the younger players to look up to. Many fans have already pegged him as the future captain of the Canucks, and his season is certainly proving the merit of that possibility. Horvat is even a candidate for Pacific Division captain at the upcoming NHL All-Star Game (you can vote for him here).
But most importantly, Horvat has been the x-factor in a lot of Vancouver victories this year, making him a prime candidate for Canucks’ MVP. With Horvat’s entry level deal set to expire at the end of the year, Jim Benning will be pressed to reward him with a hefty new deal. If Bo finishes with the career-high point totals he’s on the road to netting, there’s no fan in Canucks Nation who’ll question his importance to this franchise’s future.