Alright, Canucks militants—we’ve finally reached the final destination on our Canucks captaincy carousel. In our first four stops, we looked at a few other candidates for the team’s vacant captaincy—including Alex Edler, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Troy Stecher.
On each of those occasions, a disclaimer was included—something along the lines of “Just because you’re reading an article entitled ‘Why Troy Stecher Should Be Captain Of The Vancouver Canucks’ doesn’t mean we actually believe Stecher should be captain of the Vancouver Canucks.”
This time around, there will be no disclaimer. That’s because there’s really only one player that we at CanucksArmy believe should wear the “C” in Vancouver for the 2019/20 season—and his name is Bo Horvat.
Horvat’s superlatives when it comes to leadership are so numerous that we’ll be splitting this pro-Bo PR campaign into three parts—starting with a discussion on the many reasons he would make an excellent NHL captain.
Worlds Of Experience
If Jim Benning and Co. were to ask their players to submit resumés for the vacant role of Vancouver Canucks captain, Bo Horvat would lap the rest of the field in the category of Work Experience.
Horvat has long been touted for his leadership capabilities—and it says a lot that he was described by Brendan Ross of Dobber Prospects as a “future captain of an NHL team [with] a complete package of skills and the intangibles of no other player in this draft class” several months before Horvat was even selected 9th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
At the time, picking Horvat at that spot—especially after having just traded Cory Schneider for the 9th overall pick—was controversial and a bit of a reach, but it was justified by the notion that Horvat’s intangible qualities made him a “safe pick” that was a virtual guarantee to play a middle-six role at the NHL level.
Since then, Horvat has blown all performance-based expectations out of the water—but those impeccable intangibles remain.
He’s filled a leadership role on nearly every team he’s ever been a part of, from his days with the London Knights—where he missed out on the team captaincy to Chris Tierney as a result of an extended stay at Canucks training camp—to the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where he captained Team Ontario to a bronze medal finish. Later that same year, Horvat served as an alternate captain for Team Canada’s entry into the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament—where he put up four points in five games on the way to a gold medal.
With all that leadership experience, it came as no surprise when Horvat was named as an alternate captain of the Canucks in the midst of the 2016/17 season, his third with the team. Horvat was filling the role of the departed Alex Burrows at the time, and he ended up not wearing the “A” during the following season—only to pick it up again when the 2018/19 campaign began.
Someone To Bo-Lieve In
So, what are those remarkable intangible qualities that everyone keeps talking about? They might be hard to quantify—given the intangibility of them, of course—but it’s actually pretty easy to come up with a list of attributes that make Bo Horvat an ideal NHL captain.
A good captain has to be able to lead by example—and Horvat has been doing that since joining the organization. Few players are as dedicated to personal fitness as Horvat is, and he certainly fits the Daniel and Henrik Sedin mould of blowing the rest of his teammates out of the water when it comes to preseason testing.
Horvat isn’t just dedicated to improving his readiness to play the game—he’s also shown an astonishing ability to improve all components of his game itself. When he was drafted, Horvat’s skating was listed as his primary detriment—and the one thing that would hold him back from a long-term career as a top-six center.
Not content to simply play to his weakness, Horvat set out to work on his skating—and he did so to such a high degree that it is now considered one of the strongest aspects of his overall skillset. For a player to turn one of his shortcomings into one of his greatest strengths is an amazing accomplishment—and something that sets an undeniably positive example for every other individual in the Canucks organization.
In terms of his on-ice play, there isn’t much in the traditional hockey captain’s playbook that isn’t already an established part of Horvat’s repertoire. He competes equally well at both ends of the ice, and his consistent effort almost never waivers. Horvat makes plays with as much ease as he scores goals, and he isn’t adverse to physical play—including the occasional dropping of the gloves. He sacrifices his body by blocking shots and killing penalties when called upon, and he’s a staple on the team’s top powerplay unit. In other words, Horvat does it all—and in many ways, he’s already leading the team in almost every aspect of the game.
Great Power, Great Responsibility
Bo Horvat is not the sort of player who has had anything handed to him. Whereas other top prospects are often put in a position to succeed, Horvat was made to earn every opportunity he received at the NHL level—to the point that many fans wanted to run Willie Desjardins out of town for his treatment of the young center.
Horvat started out with the Utica Comets before earning his one and only callup after just five games—but he then found himself stapled to the fourth line. Slowly but surely, Horvat rose through the lineup during the 2014/15 season—to the point that he was already counted on as one of the team’s primary offensive contributors by the time the playoffs rolled around.
His time in the NHL hasn’t exactly gotten any easier since then. The 2018/19 season was a career year for Horvat—which is especially notable given how much of a defensive load he continues to carry. Though his penalty killing responsibilities have been lessened with the arrival of Jay Beagle, Horvat is still expected to maintain a role heavy with defensive obligations—all the while producing at a top-six level. Remarkably, he’s doing exactly that—and at age 24, there’s still plenty of time for further growth in his game.
In other words, Horvat already fits the profile of two-way, team-carrying center that is already so common among the NHL captaincy ranks. He’s a leader very much in the mould of a Jonathan Toews or a Patrice Bergeron—who would have been captain in Boston long ago if not for the presence of Zdeno Chara. The success of the Blackhawks and Bruins may have been the cause of a lot of chagrin for fans of the Vancouver Canucks, but it’s also a reason for optimism under the upcoming Horvat regime.
The Face Of The Franchise
With all the honorifics that have already been applied to Bo Horvat’s name in his five seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, it’s no surprise that the team long ago decided to make him the public face of their franchise—and that hasn’t faded even after the arrival of younger, more skilled individuals.
Horvat was being paraded in front of the media and starring in promotional material before Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser were even drafted, and he continues to be the Canuck most active in the team’s charitable endeavors and press-related activities.
In many ways, Bo Horvat served as the team’s unofficial captain throughout the 2018/19 season—and some would argue that he’s been the de facto leader of the team from the moment Henrik Sedin retired.
As the 2019/20 season approaches, it’s time to make it official.