With the 9th overall pick that the Vancouver Canucks received in the Cory Schneider trade, Laurence Gilman, Mike Gillis & Co. went off the board to select Bo Horvat of the London Knights, the highly-ranked centreman that’s played on back-to-back OHL Championship teams.
Horvat was ranked No. 15 in Central Scouting so the pick seems to be a little off the board, but after a strong Memorial Cup, there was a lot of talk that him and teammate Max Domi could be picked in the low teens of this draft. Gillis eventually spent the highest pick he’s ever had on Horvat, who is a pretty good two-way centreman that’s been a key player for the Knights in their Memorial Cup runs both as a 17- and a 18-year-old, which is fun.
He’s definitely a skilled player, and not the “toolsy” kind that the Canucks have been loathe to select over the last couple of years due to having a lot of low picks. There’s always potential for picks around this time to develop into first liners, but it isn’t *likely* at this point.
Here’s what Corey Pronman had to say, who called Horvat “one of the most complete forwards in this draft” and had him ranked at No. 14:
He is tough, hard working, and defensively skilled, with enough offensive ability to project as a scoring line player. He was a top player for one of the best teams in the CHL. He is a good skater, with a technically sound stride, as he picks up speed quickly and easily. He is a strong, physical center who will lay the body, displaying the two-way work ethic NHL teams want to see. He is an aware penalty killer, good at faceoffs, and overall projects as a center who will start his shift in the defensive zone more often than not. His creativity progressed throughout this season, and his puck skills, hand-eye coordination, and playmaking vision all rank as above average; he can flash high-end offensive skill. It is difficult to find a weakness in his game.
An interesting note that can be found at Broad Street Hockey by doing CHL quality of competition estimates is that Horvat perhaps faced some of the tougher competition on the Knights. Eric T, who wrote the analysis, didn’t want to be certain that Horvat faced tougher competition than the other top prospect from London Domi, but “it almost certainly wasn’t easier”.
Horvat, though the highest pick the Canucks have had in a long time, won’t score like a lottery player, but honestly in an environment where the Canucks had a very limited prospect cupboard, particularly in the high-end forward department, Horvat is a breath of fresh air. We can comment forever on his value next to Cory Schneider in the coming years, but the draft immediately gives the Canucks a good young forward that will probably play on Team Canada this winter.
I like the pick. The circumstances that surrounded the pick are hard to digest and will be discussed for years to come, no doubt. But, if you had told me before the draft the team would select 9th, there would be little debate in whether Horvat was one of the guys they should target.
Here is math guy Rob Pettapiece on Horvat’s CHL comparables:
While he played in the same number of games year-to-year, he seemed to be more involved in goal-scoring in 2012-13 (on the ice for 102 total 5v5 goals, vs. 53 last year) and faced tougher competition in his draft year. Toughest opposing forwards of anyone on London, 2nd-highest opposing defenceman Qualcomp.
Closests recent comparables are Alex Burmistrov, Matt Puempel and Freddie Hamilton.
From Horvat himself, via Thom Drance on the floor:
“Happy to be part of the organization, can’t wait to get there and show them what I’ve got”
“I was really surprised it’s definitely shocking sitting there but like I said anything can happen. It’s really humbling that they traded a guy for me and I’m just really happy to be part of the organization”
“I’m a two-way centreman who can play in any situation. I can be on the penalty-kill or the power-play, and you can drop me in on any situation”
This was the Play of the Year in the CHL, as far as I’m concerned. Check out that mid-air finish: