Already entering his fifth season after what seems like yesterday, Bo Horvat has become an impressive player in the league at only 23 years of age. With each passing campaign he has gained more and more usage on ice and now in the post-Sedins era he, alongside sniper Brock Boeser and tantalizing Elias Pettersson, must lead the charge in the Vancouver Canucks return to prominence. Injury derailed an impressive first quarter that saw the center post eight goals and eight assists in the first 20 contests with him unfortunately never regaining this type of scoring rate. Regardless, the overall production came at the highest points per game of his career while the chemistry with Brock Boeser provides excitement for the future. Now with the anticipated arrival of Pettersson, this team stands to rise a notch in offensive capabilities.
Pettersson will be an exciting addition for Vancouver but this is Horvat’s team now. With the Sedins gone, he’s set to take it up another notch offensively with a deadly shooter at his side in Boeser plus underrated Sven Baertschi. Only if Pettersson instantaneously adapts to the game in North America, Boeser should be locked in on Horvat’s wing. Barring injury, both are likely in for career seasons statistically and may be one of the more underrated duos across the league.
As the stats will show, Horvat has steadily but surely increased his offense each passing year. What’s probably cut from view in the graphic is the time on ice, which started at 12 minutes a night in 2014-15, to now 20 minutes plus per night in the fourth quarter of last season. Quarters one and four are where we should focus our attention concerning 2017-18. As stated, Quarter One was a great start for the youngster, with the following two quarters slowing down due to injury and return to form. Quarter Four saw 57 shots on goal in 21 games with loads of ice time. Clearly at this point the injury was behind him. Only 13 points in that timeframe but no worries as with one 50-point season under his belt, he’s knocking on the 60-point plateau with a healthy Boeser to dish to.
If you’re in fantasy settings where faceoffs won matter, Horvat jumps up the board that much more. 756 draws won in 81 games two seasons ago was nearly matched in 2017-18, with 712 in only 64 games played. 17th overall in faceoffs won last year, Horvat entering the top ten across the league in this arena by age-25 is not out of the question. Alongside his impressive faceoff skill, Horvat has gone from minus-30 in 2015-16 to a much better minus-1 in the previous campaign, further speaking to his improved two way play at the game’s highest level. On a team that does not shine in the plus minus department, it goes to show his defensive acumen.
Horvat managed to score more goals last year than in a complete campaign the season prior so it’s not surprising to see his five-on-five shooting percentage above 10 percent. He managed to match 2016-17’s 2.1 PTS/60 which led to his first 50-point campaign that year in 81 games played. Therefore it is safe to establish Horvat’s floor as such. In a nutshell we now have a Derek Stepan-type player in the London native with still more room to improve offensively. There is much value in a center who can routinely hit 50 points while dominating in the faceoff circle, they’ll just never receive the deserved attention (ask Stepan). Horvat was available late in drafts last season and will almost assuredly be available at a discount as well this year with the Canucks not viewed as a strong contender.
In order for Horvat to ascend higher offensively, he will have to add some how you say “rough and tumble” to his game. A player who currently relies more so on his speed and evasion to produce chances, the pivot will need to use his physical gifts to get to the dirty areas. Horvat is well built and has the strength to win out in physical battles but the adherence from this style cannot continue if he wants to be a 70-point center someday. Boeser is going to create space for him as defenses will have to key more so on him with his generational release. Expect Horvat to be a minus player this year once again, as he has a spotty defense overall behind him, but he’s already shown his ability to improve in the department dramatically. Certainly do not reach for Horvat in the first 10 rounds of a standard 12-team league but certainly have him on the radar as the rounds progress. This is a bonafide number one center with primary power play usage that’ll slip through the cracks in drafts, very much like Mika Zibanejad. Keep an eye on the developments in training camp as far as what center gets the pleasure of having Boeser flank them. If Pettersson was to win out and have Boeser on his line then Horvat would lose value plain and simple.
Expect the Canucks to take somewhat of a positive step forward in the coming year offensively. With some youngsters that could break out like the aforementioned Pettersson as well as Jake Virtanen and Nikolay Goldobin, Vancouver could stand to shock the league should they all make an impact in 2018-19. Goaltending is a mess in British Columbia but luckily that department has no effect on you in fantasy unless you own one of their netminders. Do not overinvest in this squad but do fear it either. Just because a team is perceived as bad does not mean there are pieces to be had that can play a large role in your quest for a fantasy title.
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