Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin – USA TODAY Sports
Bo Horvat insists he’s not sitting by his phone waiting for the call, but he does admit giving this month’s National Hockey League All-Star Game in Los Angeles some thought in recent weeks.
As Horvat emerges as the Vancouver Canucks leading scoring and has started to attract some attention around the league, don’t be surprised to see him selected as the team’s lone representative at the mid-season showcase when All-Star rosters are announced on Tuesday morning.
A panel of nhl.com writers had the third-year centre on its projected Pacific Division all-star team in an exercise posted to the league website Sunday afternoon. At least one player from each of the league’s 30 franchises will be selected to take part in the annual skills competition and the three-on-three tournament which was introduced to favourable reviews last year in Nashville.
“Obviously, when my name got put on the ballot, it crossed my mind,” Horvat told Canucks Army about the idea of being an NHL all-star. “To be in that company, it’s definitely humbling for me. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it a little bit. It’d be a great honour to go to the All-Star game and represent the Canucks.”
Such honours come with the territory for emerging players, and Horvat has broken out over the last 12 months. The 21-year-old scored his 13th goal of the season on Saturday night in Calgary, has goals in three of his last four outings and has collected eight points in the Canucks seven games since Christmas. On the season, he has 13 goals and 29 points – which leads the team in both categories.
There’s no question in just his third NHL season — he’s arrived as a leader on the Canucks. But getting recognition at the league level is something new for Horvat who isn’t sure how he’d handle himself in the company of the best players in the business.
“I think I’d be star-struck playing against the top players in the world,” he says with a laugh. “It would be a great honour for me. Even thinking about it now, I don’t know what I’d do or even what to expect. I’ll be thrilled and excited if I get to go.”
While many players in the league look at the All-Star weekend as a break in the schedule and a chance for a quick getaway or a little fun in the sun, Horvat says he hadn’t thought of any plans for the January 28-29 weekend. He maintains, however, that isn’t because he expects to get an All-Star nod and hasn’t been tipped off by anybody with knowledge of the rosters.
“Nobody has told me to take that into consideration yet, so I’ll hold off on preparing to take a trip,” he says.
Last year’s All-Star game turned into the John Scott show when the likeable tough guy was voted by fans around the league to participate in the game. The unlikely hero scored twice and was named the All-Star game MVP helping the Pacific Division defeat the Atlantic 1-0 in the championship final.
Horvat watched with interest and while teammate Daniel Sedin was overshadowed by Scott – who wasn’t? – he was delighted to see Canucks lone representative in the 2016 contest come away from the weekend a winner.
“Yeah, I did watch a little bit,” he says. “I tried to watch some of the game, and I saw the highlights. I was happy for Danny that his team won it. And hopefully our division can make that happen again this year.”
Before any games are played, All-Star weekend kicks off with the skills competition and Horvat didn’t want to get drawn into a discussion about which event – or events – he’d like to participate. He’s not likely to match the likes of a Shea Weber in the hardest shot competition, but with his skill set could challenge in the accuracy shooting or puck-handling relay.
If the call comes, he says he may seek the advice of teammates either in Canucks locker room before he departs or once he arrives at Staples Center.
“I haven’t thought too far ahead,” he says. “I still have to get there and see. When that time comes, I’ll ask around and see what the boys think I should do.”
While the time nears for the NHL to reveal their All-Star rosters, the very fact Horvat has earned consideration is a boost to his confidence – not that confidence is, or has ever been, an issue. But an All-Star nod for a job well done would be a just reward for Horvat who has quickly developed into the player the Canucks hoped he would be when they selected him ninth overall in the 2013 NHL draft.
And earning a trip to Tinseltown to walk the red carpet with the stars might help him take his game to the next level.
“Even to be in that category, it gives you lots of confidence,” he says. “It’s nice to see that you’re getting recognized and it’s especially nice when the team is doing well.”