Bo Horvat to Remain With Vancouver Through WJC’s

Despite the impending returns of some of Vancouver’s depth forwards from injury and the roster crunch that’s sure to ensue, the Vancouver Canucks have opted not to release Bo Horvat to join Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships later this month.

Read past the jump for our initial thoughts and reactions.

Selfishly, as someone who loves the World Juniors above all other hockey tournaments, I’m disappointed that Bo Horvat will not suit up for Canada this year because I’d love nothing more than to see him star on that stage and help Canada bring back the gold medal. The Canadians have pretty fantastic depth down the middle though, as they could potentially roll with their three top centres being Connor McDavid, Sam Reinhart, and Nic Petan, but Hockey Canada would still make room for Horvat, either by bumping Petan to the wing or having him support the 4th line.

The Canucks want Horvat with Vancouver though, as they feel that he’s been a consistent contributor to the team. Jim Benning made the following comments about Horvat in the Canucks press release:

He is a solid two-way player, strong in the faceoff circle and displays a maturity beyond his years. We’re very pleased with Bo’s play and look forward to watching him develop as an NHL player.

The problem is that while Horvat definitely has the potential to develop into an excellent two-way player, is already a faceoff ace, and no doubt does display maturity beyond his years, he has been quite terrible on the whole this season. He had one fantastic week, scoring against Anaheim and adding three assists against Chicago the next day, but has otherwise been rather shaky. His 43.9% Corsi ranks him 335th in the NHL, and 2nd last on Vancouver, despite seeing easily the softest competition that Willie Desjardins can get him and the 3rd highest offensive zone start percentage on the team.

This isn’t to say that you should be at all concerned about Horvat. He’s a 19-year old kid playing in the best men’s league in the world, and struggles are entirely expected and par-for-the-course when it comes to guys 20 and under – it’s for this reason, and for the future contractual benefits from saving a year on his ELC, why I thought during training camp he still needed another year of junior hockey to further improve his game. I’d rather see him in a situation where he’s working on refining his abilities to be an impact player than I would in one where he’s thrown to the wolves an struggles to keep his head above water. 

I thought Horvat had turned a corner around that Chicago game, so it’s understandable why Vancouver kept him around. And with this news today, Horvat will assuredly be on Vancouver’s roster until the end of the season, barring injury of course. Not attending the World Juniors is a fairly significant missed opportunity for Horvat, but in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t affect his development into a capable NHLer one way or the other.

In other news, Jake Virtanen has been tearing up Canada’s WJC pre-tournament games against the CIS All-Stars. Virtanen scored twice and added four assists in two games over the weekend, as Canada lit up the CIS by a combined score of 16-3. Virtanen was skating with Connor McDavid and high-scoring St. Louis Blues prospect Robby Fabbri yesterday on the second line, but was playing the right side on a fourth line with meat-and-potatoes style guys Frederik Gauthier and Lawson Crouse this morning, as Nic Petan took his spot with McDavid and Fabbri.

As Virtanen is one of the three right handed forwards remaining in camp, and one of the only natural wingers, it’s basically a given that he makes the team at this point. In a perfect world, I’d like to see Virtanen in the top-6 so Canada can spread their top scorers through the lineup and have a deadly 3-line attack. Also, “Jake you stand there and shoot when I get you the puck because I’m Connor McDavid and I will get you the puck” seems like it would be a) really fun, and b) a recipe for all the goals.

Bo Horvat and the Canucks play their next game on Wednesday against the Dallas Stars, while Jake Virtanen and team Canada take on the Russians in WJC pre-tournament action this Friday at 4:00 PM Pacific time. That game can be seen on TSN.

  • andyg

    While Virtanen’s point totals don’t look terribly impressive, he has the best PPG on his team for players that have played 2 or more games.

    He doesn’t really have the offensive support that he would have on Kelowna, Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw etc.

    It will be interesting to see how much of an impact he can make at the WJC…

  • Mantastic

    McDavid was the 5th centre in practice yesterday and didn’t play a single CIS game, Virtanen definitely wasn’t a regular winger with Connor.

    and the level of competition of the CIS “allstar team” is comparable to a tomato can.

  • Mantastic

    Meh. “Not attending the World Juniors is a fairly significant missed opportunity for Horvat, but in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t affect his development into a capable NHLer one way or the other.” Pretty much sums up my sentiments. Following his career, I’m sure Horvat will regret it if they win gold this year. That said, I’m guessing he’s just excited to be in the show right now and worried about keeping his spot in the lineup.

  • Mantastic

    I bet if you asked Bo if he would rather play at the World Juniors or play with the Canucks and I guarantee he would say Canucks.

    NHL is the dream and playing with juniors isn’t going to help him develop. I really didn’t expect him to be let out to play.

  • Mantastic

    “The Canadians have pretty fantastic depth down the middle though, as they could potentially roll with their three top centres being Connor McDavid, Sam Reinhart, and Nic Petan, but Hockey Canada would still make room for Horvat, either by bumping Petan to the wing or having him support the 4th line.”

    IMO Team Canada needs a checking line. Nic Petan is a liability defensively on the third line. Petan should play wing on the fourth line. Team Canada can roll four lines. The right handed shot Virtanen should be a lock on the first unit PP with McDavid and Reinhart.

      • Mantastic

        Although Domi, Fabri, and Petan are one year older they are like 5’7 or 5’8″. Virtanen is already 6’1″ 210 lb and has a howitzer of a shot. He plays heavy and provides net front presence.

          • Mantastic

            Ritchie is a very good power forward. However Virtanen is a better skater, and he has softer hands. Virtanen is a lock on the first PP because he is the best right hand shot forward on the team. His on ice vision and hockey IQ are also better than Ritchie.

          • Mantastic

            again, not a lock on first unit PP when he’ll be playing 4th line at even strength. there are far more talented players on the team than Virtanen. Duclaire is better than Virtanen in all of these aspects. McDavid deserves the best wingers, and Virtanen isn’t in the same tier of these players

  • Mantastic

    We’ll see. Duclaire is a very good player, but he shoots left. So he is not a lock on the first unit PP. I would disagree with you that Duclaire is better than Virtanen in all the aspects already mentioned. Also Duclaire doesn’t have the pedigree of a high first round pick. If he is so good, the Rangers would have kept him on their team. The 2014 draft was a better and deeper draft in general than ’13. I think we can agree to disagree. Enjoy the WJC games.

    • Mantastic

      you clearly don’t follow the draft very well. 2014 draft was one of the weakest drafts in history. 2013 was FAR superior.

      and surprise surprise, Virtanen on NONE of the PP units for practice before the last scrimmage game on Friday.

      • Mantastic

        If you follow the draft so well, then you know Duclaire is a bit on the small side. He is clearly NOT better than Virtanen in any skill sets.

        Don’t read too much into the practices. The final cuts haven’t been made yet. Petan and McDavid aren’t even in the lineup against the Russians.

        Like I said, we’ll see and enjoy the games!

        • Mantastic

          what are you talking about? Duclaire is CLEARLY a better player than Virtanen right now. Hockey Canada thinks so, as does pretty much EVERYONE else. clearly you just don’t know much considering you think 2014 draft is so much better than the 2013 class.

          • andyg

            Virtanen has pro size, speed, and shot. Duclaire is a good player but not in the same class as Virtanen. Who is everyone? Quit trolling by telling other people they don’t know. YOU obviously know EVERYTHING ! Enjoy the WJC games!