In his five NHL seasons, Bo Horvat has teased fantasy owners with the ability to perhaps one day reach 35-40 goals and 75-85 points, but he has yet to achieve it. The 9th overall pick in 2013 was deemed by many when he first entered the league as a 19-year old to have a ceiling of a solid third-line center and perhaps become a consistent 40 to 50-point two-way player. Has he done enough to raise those expectations and become a second or even a first-line center on any NHL team and not just the Canucks? We will look at some of his underlying stats and see if there is any data that can support an improvement to that next tier of point production. Or is he just what he is?
Horvat’s pts/g has risen every year in the league and is currently at 0.72 pts/g and he is on pace for a career high of 27 goals and 58 points. His shots per game average this season is at 2.91 compared to his career average of 2.07. He leads the NHL in faceoff wins with 902 and his FOW% is 53%. As a result of his prowess in the circle, his offensive zone starts have dropped to 41.38% from a career average of over 46%. He has also seen his TOI increase to 21:03 min/g, a full 1:42 min/g more than last season.
At even strength, Horvat has struggled to find consistent linemates throughout his career, and this year is no different as shown by his diverse line combinations. At even strength, he has a career high of 0.51 pts/g this season, significantly above his career average of 0.44 pts/g. As a comparison, Leon Draisaitl averages 0.64 pts/g at even strength and is currently at 0.85 pts/g this year. This is the level that Horvat will need to achieve if he is to get into the next tier of point production. There is a perception in Vancouver that he just needs to play with more skilled linemates and his production will then improve. Horvat’s PDO is 99.7, right where he should be in terms of production. His CF% is 49.23, which is top five on the Canucks, and he has steadily improved his defensive play each season. His plus/minus will always be a little risky because of his defensive zone starts and matchups, but it should rise if the Canucks improve as a team.
Horvat has steadily become more of a first-unit fixture on the power play, as evidenced by his 65.8% PP time. The Canucks PP has struggled this year at 14.9% compared to 21.4% last year when the Sedin twins still ran it. He is not a shooter on the first unit and most of his points come from face-offs, goalmouth scrambles or passes from below the red line. He is still on pace to get 16 points on the PP, which would eclipse his career high of 13, but it’s a little concerning to see his IPP on the PP decrease steadily over the past four years (down to 52.0 this year from 92.3 in 2015-2016), which indicates the puck is not flowing through him as much.
Bo Horvat is a very good player but unless your league rewards face-off wins, he is a middle of the road fantasy player who will need to redefine his game from a passing standpoint if he wants to reach Draisaitl-type numbers. Draisaitl has always hovered around 72 IPP in all situations, whereas Horvat has struggled to maintain an IPP of 60 in the past two campaigns. To put this in perspective, most top-producing forwards are at least 70 IPP or higher, with Nikita Kucherov at 85 as an example.
With a cap hit of $5.5 million per year, Horvat is priced fairly well for a 55-to-65-point player who should score 25-30 goals. I just wouldn’t bet the farm on him becoming more than he is, fantasy-wise.
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