If you haven’t checked out the Vancouver Canucks’ leading scorers scorers list lately, you might be surprised to see who’s at the top.
For 10 straight seasons, the Canucks have been led in scoring by Henrik Sedin or his brother Daniel. Henrik has led the team in scoring five times, Daniel four times, and they were tied for the lead on one occasion.
But as the Sedins get another year older (they turned 36 in September), their production will begin to slip. It’s not a question of if, but rather when and how fast.
With 13 points (6-7-13) for Daniel and 12 points (5-7-12) for Henrik, the Sedins are on pace to achieve their worst points per game season since their third year in the league in 2002-03 during the dead puck era.
We’re just past the quarter poll mark of the regular season, so there’s plenty of time for the Sedins to up their totals. I’m not prepared to say that they’re no longer first line players just yet, and neither should you. Daniel and Henrik have made a career out of proving doubters wrong, after all.
But if this is indeed the beginning of the Sedins becoming the team’s second line, the Canucks just may have found their #1 centre in waiting.
With 15 points (7-8-15), Bo Horvat is on pace for a 56-point season, which is more than Henrik Sedin achieved last season.
While Horvat doesn’t see the top defensive pairings like the Twins, the 21-year-old has put up numbers despite less than ideal linemates and second unit power play time. Horvat’s shooting percentage (20.6%) is likely unsustainable, but consider also that he started the year as the team’s fourth-line centre, is ninth on the team in power play time on ice, and sixth among forwards in even strength ice time.
Horvat leads the team in even strength points and has a team-best 2.40 points per 60 minutes, well ahead of Alex Burrows (1.95) who is second on the list.
Many pundits have pegged Horvat as a future #2 centre since he was drafted in 2013. But if Horvat is already producing at a second line rate at age 21, who’s to say he can’t develop into a bonafide #1 in the next few seasons?
Horvat has shown flashes of brilliance over his first three seasons in the league, and of late those flashes have been appearing more frequently. The combination of a good wrist shot and a slick toe-drag has made him dangerous one-on-one.
If that comparison sounds similar to Ryan Kesler, it should, although Horvat scored 40 points last season as a 20-year-old. Kesler didn’t play in the NHL at age 20 because of the lockout, but scored just 23 points as a 21-year-old. He didn’t get to 40 points until his breakout season at age 24 when he scored 59 points.
Foot speed was once a weakness for Horvat, but you can make a case that it’s now a strength. That was on display on Saturday when he burst past Francois Beauchemin and showed great vision, finding Alex Burrows with a nifty pass to make the game 2-1.
Before their goal, our goal. Burrows' fourth. pic.twitter.com/ekw383cquH
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) November 27, 2016
Now can Horvat pull that off against the likes of Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith? That’s going to be more difficult.
Nobody knows what the future holds, but for now the play of Horvat is at least encouraging.
What will be interesting to see is if the coaching staff begins to alter their deployment of Horvat and the Sedins if this trend continues. That’s exactly what began to happen in 2005-06, when the Sedins began knocking on the door as Naslund-Morrison-Bertuzzi began to slow down.
Will Horvat begin to see time on the first unit of the league’s 26th-ranked power play? Will he begin to get top wingers on his line?
Again, it’s not time to count the Sedins out – they deserve the benefit of the doubt – but this is certainly a situation to monitor over the coming months.