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Bo Horvat is arguably the biggest reason the Vancouver Canucks currently hold a 2-0 lead over the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Canucks captain has already scored four times in the series, including the overtime winner that secured the 2-0 series lead over the St. Louis Blues on Friday.
Yeah, @BoHorvat is playing on another level this series.
— NHL (@NHL) August 15, 2020
Horvat now has an NHL-leading six goals in six postseason games this summer, a number of tallies twice as high as any of his teammates (Elias Pettersson and Tanner Pearson both have three). His eight points is tied for the team lead with Quinn Hughes, and third-best in the NHL.
The 25-year-old also leads the team in shots (20), plus-minus (+4), and face-off percentage (59.5%). He’s been on the ice for seven Canucks goals at 5-on-5, while only having surrendered one against. And that’s while playing regularly against the opponent’s best players and averaging 20:30 of ice time per game, which leads all Canucks forwards.
It’s an incredible six-game stretch, but it certainly isn’t the first time Horvat has stepped up to deliver in the playoffs before.
In fact, playoff performance was a big reason why Horvat was one of the biggest risers ahead of the 2013 NHL Draft.
The Hockey Writers had Horvat ranked 41st, a clear second-round prospect when their midseason rankings were released in December of 2012. But by the time their final rankings came out in June, Horvat had risen all the way to ninth on the list, the same spot he would eventually be taken by the Canucks after acquiring the pick in exchange for Corey Schneider.
Playing for the London Knights, Horvat hit a whole new level in the playoffs. He scored 16 goals in 21 games while consistently playing in a match-up role against the opposing teams’ top players.
He famously scored the winning goal in Game 7 of the OHL Finals that year with 0.1 seconds remaining, which sent the Knights to the Memorial Cup.
It was a lot of the intangibles Horvat had — clutch goal scoring, leadership, dominance in face-offs — that made him such an intriguing player in that draft.
Laurence Gilman, the Canucks assistant GM in 2013, talked about their thought process behind that pick during a 2017 interview on TSN 1040.
“Our position on Bo was that we felt he was going to be a player cut in the same mold as a Patrice Bergeron or Jonathan Toews without the prolific offensive upside,” Gilman said. “We saw him as second-line centre who was going to be an exceptional two-way centre – a matchup player who would shut down the opposing team’s top offensive players, a guy on your power play, a guy who could kill penalties, and a guy who’d be a leader on your team.”
That previous Canucks management group was notably poor on the draft floor, but they should be applauded for knocking that Schneider-Horvat trade out of the park. Their evaluations were spot on, and Horvat is now the captain and one of the Canucks’ top players.
The Canucks didn’t have to wait too long to get their first look at Horvat in the NHL playoffs. Just two years after they drafted him, the Canucks made the playoffs in Horvat’s rookie season and played the Calgary Flames in 2015.
It was a disappointing playoffs for the Canucks, who lost in six games to the Flames, but Horvat was a bright spot. He had four points in those six games playing on the fourth line and often looked like the Canucks’ most dangerous player.
It’s taken five years for the Canucks to get back to the postseason, but Horvat is now proving yet again that he thrives in a playoff atmosphere.
His goals, especially in the last two games, have all come in big situations.
In Game 1 he opened the scoring on the power play with a sweet one-timer that beat Jordan Binnington.
Full replay of @BoHorvat's 3rd goal of the playoffs!
Spoiler alert: 🚀 pic.twitter.com/mZgc7z0zHV
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) August 13, 2020
Later in the game, his dazzling dangle around Vince Dunn led to the insurance goal, giving the Canucks a two-goal lead in the third period.
Dunn for 😏 pic.twitter.com/eehHKgZwRz
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) August 13, 2020
Horvat once again opened the scoring in Game 2 with what has to be the nicest goal of his entire NHL career.
The prettiest shorthanded goal you've ever seen? 🤔🚨🔥 pic.twitter.com/7yZ8ZoPR6A
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) August 14, 2020
And of course, he finished off Game 2 with the overtime winner.
BO SCOREVAT WINS IT WOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWW pic.twitter.com/ZyRTkzOHTi
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) August 15, 2020
“He’s playing phenomenal right now,” Travis Green said of his captain after Game 2. “Last three games as good as I’ve seen him. I know he wasn’t happy with his game in his first couple. The good thing with Bo is you can be honest with him.”
“If anyone’s made for playoff hockey, it’s Bo Horvat.”