It’s no secret we all love Canucks sophomore Bo Horvat. He’s physical, he’s fast, he has amazing hands and he’s like-able. His progression up the depth chart in less than a calendar year has not been seen in some time by a Canucks forward and it looks like he’ll only get better. We’ve seen this before; Ryan Kesler was that guy that we couldn’t stop talking about. Will this time around be different or are we destined to repeat history?
Bo Horvat enters his second season as the favorite to take over the 2nd line centre position, much to the chagrin of Brandon Sutter I’m sure. All Horvat has done is win endless amounts of faceoffs, create energy on a team begging for a spark and put the puck in the net. Maybe Bo isn’t quite Kesler 2.0 yet but he’s being put in a position to climb that ladder.
With 13G, 12A, a SHG and a GWG in 68 games, Bo wasn’t a world burner last season but his presence at the face off circle made him a threat every time he was on the ice. He finished an impressive 2nd on the team with a 51.4% clip in the middle along with his shooting % of 14.1. On a team that really doesn’t shoot a lot outside of the top line and the defense, that isn’t exactly amazing news.
But it’s not just the statistics that make Horvat a future star, it’s his hustle and willingness to create the play, he doesn’t just wait for it to happen. He’s wise beyond his years and understands that the pro game isn’t just one step and you’re there; it’s progression. Jason Botchford wrote a great piece about Bo here and it shows how he has elevated his maturity and readiness to be more for the Canucks this season.
Last season, we all wanted Bo to make the squad but it wasn’t just because he looked good out there, he looked like he belonged. That’s a tough thing to accomplish as a 19 year old but as the season went on and Willie Desjardins loosened the leash a bit, Horvat began to blossom.
The natural progression of any young player is to work your way up and earn your keep; Bo made quick work of his 4th line duties and even the 3rd line position. He just kept getting better and on a Canucks team that wasn’t, he brought more and more every game.
Ryan Kesler was that player we all wanted in the lineup but in a different sort of way. Kesler had a similar drive to Horvat but he had a bit of a mean streak to him as well. A slightly cocky American teenager, Kesler had grit. He was an absolute competitor and even if his body failed him, his heart and mind pushed forward.
Receiving a serious eye injury in the 2004 World Junior Championship against Slovakia, Kesler was close to losing sight in that eye, but he pushed on and was right back at it against Sweden. He would kill penalties and in the Gold Medal game against Canada he netted the infamous GTG against Marc Andre Fleury. USA would go on to win the Gold Medal.
Ryan also suffered a hip injury in 2006-07 and upon his return to the playoffs broke his finger in the opening round as noted here in a 2011 article:
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Ryan Kesler would never admit that he and the Vancouver Canucks need a few days off before the Western Conference finals.
Kesler is the player who asked doctors to cut off a badly broken finger in his first postseason game four years earlier, and he is also the guy who returned to Game 5 on Saturday night against the Nashville Predators in the same period in which he was hit so hard by a deflected puck that the cut went right through his lower lip and knocked out a tooth.
So even with his swollen face turning shades of yellow and purple around the stitches crisscrossing jaggedly an inch below his lip, Kesler wouldn’t say he wanted time to recover.
Stubborn? Yes. Dedicated. Absolutely.
Kesler was a gamer for the Canucks and his shift disturbing nature along with team mate Alex Burrows gave the Canucks a needed edge in games where they weren’t always the favourite. He was everything we wanted in a Vancouver Canuck and he delivered the goods.
In the 2011 Western Semi-Final against the Nashville Predators, Ryan Kesler put the Canucks on his shoulders and almost singlehandedly won that series. Beast mode had arrived. Unfortunately, after that playoff run we never saw the same Kes.
His drive put him at another level and his body suffered and the strained relationship between the team, fans and Kesler began. It was never repaired.
Bo Horvat has a very similar motivation. He is a student of the game and unlike Kesler, he passes the puck when the time is right. Bo doesn’t necessarily have or require a “scoring winger” yet but when the time comes, there will be weapons readily available to him in the form of Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk and Jake Virtanen.
Both players have been very efficient when down a man and Bo is quickly becoming the PK monster that we lost when Kesler departed. It was such a huge part of the Canucks game when Ryan could kill important penalties and help the Canucks rebound the other way.
Vancouver isn’t going to be a team that draws too many penalties but when they do, Horvat will be a mainstay at some point and his ability to win the all important face off will set the team up for so many more goals than they deserve.
Looking at the similarities between Bo and Ryan is easy in some respects but when it comes to the chirping and the play after the whistles, its safe to say Bo will let his play between the whistles do the talking; something Kesler took awhile to establish.
This go around will be different for the Vancouver Canucks as they are making their build count this time. It may take a few years to fully develop but the future will be in young Horvat’s hands.
Hopefully Bo doesn’t require emergency eye surgery or have his finger practically dismembered to prove his dedication to his team and fans; we’re done with the travesties.
The trade that sent Cory Schneider to the Devils for the 9th overall pick may end up being the Canucks saving grace and as Bo continues to develop into an all around threat at both ends of the rink, we can only smile more.
Ryan Kesler may have left the Canucks and all the great years he gave us will not be forgetten; but Bo Horvat has an opportunity to eclipse Kesler and turn the Vancouver Canucks into HIS team. The fans are already on his side and so is the coach. Both so different and yet very much the same, Horvat at some point will be compared to Kesler for his accolades in Vancouver but his path will be much different.
As the comparisons pile up to who the next Cam Neely will be, why not see what the current Bo Horvat can do? The sky is the limit for this kid and at some point he’ll probably be awarded a letter that only a few players before him have worn better.
Bo Horvat isn’t Ryan Kesler . He’s Canadian, he’s young…and he’s a Vancouver Canuck.
Follow me on twitter for more: @always90four