September 16 2013 10:40AM
Is Bo Horvat ready to stick in the NHL? What does history tell us?
Image via The Chronicle.
It seems that with each passing day, more and more people are talking themselves into Bo Horvat being the answer to the Canucks' "riddle down the middle" on the 3rd line. I think that at this point it has as much to do with the lack of other intriguing options as it has to do with anything about Bo Horvat.
Brad Richardson. Jordan Schroeder. Mike Santorelli. Not exactly a list of names that inspires a ton of confidence in having the ability to fill an important role on the team. Especially a team whose fans have become conditioned to expect wins. Horvat is obviously a highly touted prospect, who is not only the new shiny toy in town, but also by all accounts plays a style of two-way hockey that could easily endear him to coach John Tortorella.
But is Horvat actually a realistic option to not only make the team, but stick in a 3rd line role? What does history tell us?
Read on past the jump for more.
According to Hockey Reference, there have been 21(*) 18-year old centers (as of February 1st of that particular season) to hang around in the NHL for >9 games. You'll note that because of that February 1st deadline, a guy like Sean Couturier doesn't make the list. Also, there are 22 names, but as far as I know, Evander Kane never actually played down the middle in the NHL. He's a winger through and through, which is why I didn't include him.
Below is a look at how each of the players on the list performed in their draft year, and how the team they were set to join did that season:
|Alexander Daigle||1st overall ('93)||10-70-4||53 GP, 45 G, 92 A (QMJHL)|
|Chris Gratton||3rd overall ('93)||23-54-7||58 GP, 55 G, 54 A (OHL)|
|Jeff Friesen||11th overall ('94)||33-35-16||66 GP, 51 G, 67 A (WHL)|
|Joe Thornton||1st overall ('97)||26-47-9||59 GP, 41 G, 81 A (OHL)|
|Patrick Marleau||2nd overall ('97)||27-47-8||71 GP, 51 G, 74 A (WHL)|
|Vincent Lecavalier||1st overall ('98)||17-55-10||58 GP, 44 G, 71 A (QMJHL)|
|Rico Fata||6th overall ('98)||26-41-5||64 GP, 43 G, 33 A (OHL)|
|Manny Malhotra||7th overall ('98)||25-39-18||57 GP, 16 G, 35 A (OHL)|
|Tim Connolly||5th overall ('99)||24-48-10||46 GP, 34 G, 34 A (OHL)|
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard||8th overall ('02)||26-35-12||69 GP, 46 G, 94 A (QMJHL)|
|Patrice Bergeron||45th overall ('03)||36-31-11||70 GP, 23 G, 50 A (QMJHL)|
|Dan Fritsche||46th overall ('03)||29-42-11||61 GP, 32 G, 39 A (OHL)|
|Sidney Crosby||1st overall ('05)||Lockout||62 GP, 66 G, 102 A (QMJHL)|
|Jordan Staal||2nd overall ('06)||22-46-14||68 GP, 28 G, 40 A (OHL)|
|Sam Gagner||6th overall ('07)||32-43-7||53 GP, 35 G, 83 A (OHL)|
|Steven Stamkos||1st overall ('08)||31-42-9||61 G, 58 G, 47 A (OHL)|
|Ryan O'Reilly||33rd overall ('09)||32-45-5||68 GP, 16 G, 50 A (OHL)|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||1st overall ('11)||25-45-12||69 GP, 31 G, 75 A (WHL)|
|Alex Galchenyuk||3rd overall ('12)||31-35-16||68 GP, 31 G, 52 A in '11 (OHL)|
|Mikhail Grigorenko||12th overall ('12)||39-32-11||59 GP, 40 G, 45 A (QMJHL)|
|Stefan Matteau||29th overall ('12)||48-28-6||18 GP, 6 G, 4 A (USHL)|
As a comparison, here's how the 18-year old centers performed the following season (in their rookie campaigns), and how their teams wound up doing:
|Player||Team Record||Games Played||Production||Point Shares|
|Alexander Daigle||14-61-9||84||20 G, 31 A, 168 SOG||2.7|
|Chris Gratton||30-43-11||84||13 G, 29 A, 161 SOG||2.2|
|Jeff Friesen||19-25-4||48||15 G, 10 A, 86 SOG||2.1|
|Joe Thornton||39-30-13||55||3 G, 4 A, 33 SOG||-0.5|
|Patrick Marleau||34-38-10||74||13 G, 19 A, 90 SOG||3.1|
|Vincent Lecavalier||19-54-9||82||13 G, 15 A, 125 SOG||1.9|
|Rico Fata||30-40-12||20||0 G, 1 A, 13 SOG||-0.2|
|Manny Malhotra||33-38-11||73||8 G, 8 A, 61 SOG||1.4|
|Tim Connolly||24-48-10||81||14 G, 20 A, 114 SOG||1.8|
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard||42-29-11||50||7 G, 13 A, 53 SOG||2|
|Patrice Bergeron||41-19-22||71||16 G, 23 A, 133 SOG||4.5|
|Dan Fritsche||25-45-12||19||1 G, 0 A, 19 SOG||-0.2|
|Sidney Crosby||22-46-14||81||39 G, 63 A, 278 SOG||10.5|
|Jordan Staal||47-24-11||81||29 G, 13 A, 131 SOG||5.6|
|Sam Gagner||41-35-6||79||13 G, 36 A, 135 SOG||3.7|
|Steven Stamkos||24-40-18||79||23 G, 23 A, 181 SOG||4.5|
|Ryan O'Reilly||43-30-9||81||8 G, 18 A, 135 SOG||1.2|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||32-40-10||62||18 G, 34 A, 134 SOG||6|
|Alex Galchenyuk||29-14-5||48||9 G, 18 A, 79 SOG||3.5|
|Mikhail Grigorenko||21-21-6||25||1 G, 4 A, 31 SOG||0.2|
|Stefan Matteau||19-19-10||17||1 G, 2 A, 22 SOG||0.2|
(*In case you're unfamiliar with the concept of point shares, they're explained nicely here.)
For the most part, there appear to be two main reasons why an 18-year old would stick with the team that drafted him instead of going back to junior for another year of development:
a) The team stinks, and feels the need throw to their fans a bone by putting the shiny new toy on display.
b) The team is gearing up for a playoff run, and is hoping the player would provide a much needed push.
The list provides an interesting mixture of talent, with guys at both ends of the spectrum. For what it's worth, only 7 of the players actually wound up playing for teams with winning records, while most struggled quite a bit (as you'd expect given the circumstances).
While I'm probably lower on the Canucks heading into the 2013-14 season than most in these parts, they still clearly don't fit the first category. Barring a series of unfortunate events they'll once again win a bunch of games, and be competing when the playoffs roll around.
The second category seems to be a good fit, though. With the team's perceived window closing, they could be feeling the pressure of trying to make one last serious push with this core. Could they believe that Bo Horvat could be that missing piece of the puzzle that helps them make a playoff push? Sure.
I'm all for going into training camp and the preseason with an open mind; if he truly proves that he deserves that spot, then you give it to him, because he earned it. It certainly helps his case that the competition for the gig isn't all that stiff, and John Tortorella (and Mike Gillis) have repeatedly gone out of their way to suggest that we're in the midst of a youth movement of sorts.
But if there's any doubt whatsoever, then I simply don't see the point of rushing him and potentially stunting his development. This coming season is a big one for him. He figures to be the captain of his junior team (which will be hosting the Memorial Cup, by the way), and he'll be a prominent member for Team Canada at the World Juniors. And quite frankly, he still has work to do; as Thomas Drance pointed out in his profile of the 9th overall pick, Horvat struggled in the times he wasn't paired up with fellow 1st rounder Max Domi last season.
I'm not saying it's impossible or even inconceivable that Bo Horvat sticks with the Canucks this Fall, because that's clearly not the case, but if history has told us anything, it's that you shouldn't put your money on it. Not yet, at least.