Bo Horvat lives in front of the net

Bo Horvat is on quite the run offensively in February. He’s currently on a 4-game point streak and has 4 goals and 8 points in his last 10 games. With his boost in production has come a boost in playing time, to the point that it’s safe to call him the third-line centre.

It helps Horvat’s case for more ice time that two centres ahead of him on the depth chart, Brad Richardson and Nick Bonino, are currently injured, but Horvat has earned it as well, with his underlying possession statistics also steadily improving over the last couple months. It wouldn’t even be surprising to see him retain the third-line role once Richardson and Bonino return, with Bonino slotting back in on the second line and Richardson moving to the fourth, allowing Linden Vey and Shawn Matthias to go back to the wings.

What is most encouraging is that most of Horvat’s goals have come from the kind of thankless hard work that you might not expect from a rookie. The majority of his goals have come from going hard to the net, staying there and accepting punishment, and depositing a rebound.

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It’s okay to get a Bo Horvat jersey now; Canucks confirm he’s staying in Vancouver

I was confident that Bo Horvat was sticking around this season after the Canucks’ 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. His line in that game, with Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson, didn’t start a single shift in the offensive zone and was repeatedly sent out against the Kings’ top forwards. If Horvat was capable of holding his own against the best the Kings’ had to offer, even though it was in a blowout loss, he was NHL-ready and had no business being sent back to Junior.

Sure enough, Willie Desjardins and Jim Benning confirmed that Horvat was going to stick with the Canucks, the morning before he faces the other half of the trade that brought him to the Canucks, Cory Schneider. Before this weekend, however, it was a touch-and-go as to whether Horvat would be here all season.

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Shift-by-shift: Bo Horvat’s NHL debut

Bo Horvat’s first career NHL game wasn’t one for the ages. It won’t make any top-10 lists for great debuts. All the same, it was a solid start for the 19-year-old and certainly something on which to build.

He had just under 9 minutes in ice time over 16 shifts and had a relatively empty stat line: plus-1, with one shot and one blocked shot. He did go 9-for-13 on faceoffs, but the boxscore even underplayed that, crediting his first career faceoff win to Henrik Sedin.

Delving into the advanced statistics for the game gives us a little bit more information: the Canucks out-shot the Avalanche 6-to-2 when he was on the ice at even-strength and were 8-5 in shot attempts. That’s good, but it’s worth noting that the entire team had great possession numbers because the Avalanche are not particularly good at puck possession.

It’s also worth noting that Horvat started a fair amount in the defensive zone: of his 13 faceoffs, 5 of them were in the defensive zone, 7 in the neutral zone, and just 1 in the offensive zone. Of those 5 defensive zone faceoffs, Horvat won 4 of them, only losing to Ryan O’Reilly.

He wasn’t exactly sheltered either. The three Avalanche forwards he faced the most were Jamie McGinn, Ryan O’Reilly, and Matt Duchene, all staples of Colorado’s top-six.

That’s about all we can decipher from the statistics we have available and it paints a pretty unspectacular but promising picture. But I wanted to know more. So, like I’ve done for the debuts of other Canucks rookies, I looked at Horvat’s game shift-by-shift.

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The Prospector: Virtanen, McCann, and Subban make Super Series rosters

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

In this edition, we look at the Canucks prospects set to play in the Subway Super Series, Jordan Subban’s goalscoring ability, Cole Cassels’ outstanding week, and a few of the Canucks’ prospects in the ECHL.

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Horvat back practicing; where does he fit in the lineup?

The current five-day break between game days is torture for Canucks fans, who are eager to see their team continue their winning ways. It’s definitely a bit of a wacky way to start the season. The Boston Bruins will have played 6 games before the Canucks even get to their third. Considering the way they’ve started the season, they may be wishing they had a five-day break instead.

It has been very useful, however, for Bo Horvat, who is back practicing with the team after his pre-season injury and has only missed two games because of the odd schedule. Earlier this week, Willie Desjardins said that he expects Horvat to be back by the weekend, which could mean he gets in the lineup as early as Friday against the Edmonton Oilers or Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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Four battles to watch heading into Canucks training camp

It’s the start of training camp, which means it’s time for rampant speculation. Who will shine in the pre-season? Who will fall flat on their faces? Which player will excel, looking to have a spot sewn up, then get a brutal injury in the final game of the pre-season and never play for the Canucks again?

The truth is that we have no earthly idea what’s going to happen, particularly in this coming training camp and pre-season. Thanks to the off-season shake-up both on and off the ice, my Canucks-branded Magic 8-Ball keeps returning “Reply hazy, try again.” Admittedly, that’s better than when it was telling me, “You know what to do: burn ‘em all!”

Here are four training camp battles to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 2: Youngstars Tournament and the Meaning of Life

The Canucks prospects are in Penticton, working like mad to impress an all-new management group. Meanwhile, we’re sitting on our behinds judging those prospects, their skill, and their effort. In general, we’re pretty positive about the prospects of these prospects.

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Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat are totally all about playing their game

Among the takeaways from the Canucks’ first two games at the Youngstars tournament: Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk have some chemistry.

It’s really a shame that Horvat and Shinkaruk probably won’t get to play together when September ends, what with Shinkaruk likely headed to the AHL after Canucks training camp, and Horvat looking at an NHL-or-bust scenario, where bust means “back in juniors for another year”, not “failed prospect”. The two look good together. An optimist might even imagine a future where they replace the Sedins as the next prominent duo in Vancouver.

Granted, they didn’t share a womb, which puts them behind the eight ball a little, although, heck, if the Canucks are smart, they’ll convert Mike Gillis’s now-abandoned “mind room” into a “utero room”, then put Horvat and Shinkaruk in there for nine months or so, just to really cultivate this chemistry. First one out succeeds Henrik as captain.

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Canucks prospects to watch at the 2014 Young Stars Tournament

I love this time of year. The lead-up to training camp and the start of the NHL regular season is a time of positivity and optimism. After a long off-season with no Canuck hockey, the wait is finally over. Sort of.

Tonight is the start of the annual Young Stars prospect tournament, as the Canucks prospects take on the Oilers prospects at 7:30 pm. The game will be streamed live on and the Canucks’ YouTube channel, which means that even if you can’t make it out to Penticton, you can still watch the game.

Normally, this is when we’d get our first look at the Canucks’ recent draft picks, but, for a variety of reasons, that won’t really be happening this year. Just two of the Canucks’ seven 2014 draft picks will be at the tournament and they were the Canucks’ last two picks of the draft. Neither of the Canucks’ first round picks will be playing: Jake Virtanen isn’t cleared for contact yet after his shoulder surgery and Jared McCann has mononucleosis.

The Canucks’ second round pick, goaltender Thatcher Demko, is already back at Boston College, while their third and fifth round picks, Nikita Tryamkin and Gustav Forsling, are back in Russia and Sweden. That leaves just sixth round pick Kyle Pettit and seventh round pick Mackenze Stewart from the Canucks’ most recent draft.

Fortunately, there are many other Canucks prospects to get excited about, from the obvious to the more unheralded.

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Spitballin’ on betting odds, bad systems, and Bo Horvat

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Replacing Ryan Kesler with quantity, not quality

After a couple incredibly busy weeks, the Canucks appear to have finished making moves for now. While it’s certainly possible that we’ll see another trade during the summer and an unsigned free agent or two might merit an invite to training camp, it’s reasonable to think that the current Canucks roster is the same as the one we will see in September when camp starts.

If so, the Canucks are left with a significant hole on the second line, approximately the same size and shape as Ryan Kesler. For years, the Canucks have relied on Kesler to shutdown the opposition’s best forwards, while contributing secondary scoring and playing a key role on both the penalty kill and power play. Although he has slowed down of late and will likely never again be the 70+ point player he was in 2009-10 and 2010-11, he’ll still be difficult to replace.

It looks like Jim Benning didn’t even try to replace Kesler. Instead, he placed a premium on having a proven goaltender, devoting significant capspace to signing Ryan Miller rather than going after one of the top centres available in free agency. By doing so, Benning left the second-line centre role up for grabs, banking on quantity over quality.

While the Canucks don’t have any surefire bets to replace Kesler, they do have several potential second line centres who are as yet unproven. The Canucks’ best bet at this point is to rotate players in and out of the position throughout the season until one of them secures it with his play.

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Watch Canucks prospects put up points in round two of the CHL playoffs [VIDEO]

The Canucks have to be proud of the performance of their prospects in the CHL playoffs. After two rounds, three prospects are still in the top-ten in OHL playoff scoring: Dane Fox, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels. The Canucks have five prospects still in the playoffs — the aforementioned three forwards and defencemen Miles Liberati and Anton Cederholm.

Bo Horvat’s London Knights regrettably got eliminated by the Guelph Storm, but will still get a chance to play for the Memorial Cup since they are the hosts of the tournament.

Since so few of the CHL playoff games are televised, I compiled a highlight reel for round one two weeks ago and I have done the same for round two, featuring some pretty assists from Brendan Gaunce and an outburst of goals from Cole Cassels.

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Watch Bo Horvat, Dane Fox, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels tear up the OHL playoffs [VIDEO]

The Canucks playoff hopes are about as dim as Shane O’Brien caving in Torca del Cerro del Cuevon without a headlamp. The chances of the Canucks making the playoffs are lower than the chances of “fetch” happening. It’s as unlikely as Facebook ever adding a dislike button.

Some players in the Canucks system are seeing playoff success, however, specifically their forward prospects in the OHL. All four are in the top-ten in scoring in the OHL playoffs, with Dane Fox first and Brendan Gaunce third. Their respective teams also dominated the first round, all advancing in four or five games.

It’s tough to see these prospects in action, however, as OHL playoff games are sporadically televised at best. You can see Bo Horvat and the London Knights take on the Guelph Storm in game one of their second round series this Friday on Sportsnet ONE at 4:30, but if you want to see others, you’re basically out of luck.

You can, however, see some of their goals and assists from the first round in the following highlight video!

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The Prospector: Ben Hutton’s record-breaking season; Canucks prospects make a mark in OHL playoffs

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

In this edition, we break down Ben Hutton’s solid sophomore season and highlight four forwards — Dane Fox, Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels — racking up points in the OHL playoffs.

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Watch Bo Horvat undress a defenceman to score a gorgeous highlight reel goal [VIDEO]

Despite the disappointment of falling short at the World Junior tournament, Bo Horvat is still having an incredible season. The Canucks’ 9th overall pick in the 2013 draft is racking up points while continuing his strong defensive play, doing his best to justify the high price paid to draft him.

With 47 points in 31 games, Horvat is 10th in the OHL in points-per-game, establishing himself as one of Canada’s best junior players. He combines elite defensive play with good offensive instincts, but what has been most eye-catching about Horvat is is hands, which are far silkier than his initial scouting reports indicated.

Horvat has a devastating toe drag as well as quick hands in traffic, but his move on Sunday against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is simply unreal.

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The Prospector: Alexandre Grenier helps lead Utica, Ben Hutton’s a top Black Bear

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

In the first edition of The Prospector, we took a look at some of the big names in the Canucks’ prospect pool, like Frank Corrado, Bo Horvat, and Hunter Shinkaruk. This time around, we’re going to look at some of the lesser lights that still have potential to eventually crack a Canucks lineup, while also touching on a couple updates on the top tier.

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The Prospector: Shinkaruk and Horvat impress, Gaunce and Corrado hold steady, Jensen still on shelf

It’s easy to lose track of how the Canucks’ prospects are doing during the regular season. After all, the Canucks play a game every couple of days and every spare moment in-between is full of fretting over what the result of the previous game meant for the team’s chances of winning another game ever again. All that fretting doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else.

That’s why we’re starting a semi-regular feature on the blog called The Prospector, where we’ll take a look through the Canucks’ system and give you an update on a few select prospects. For the first edition of The Prospector, we’re going to start with the big names. There were five prospects that had a real shot at starting the season with the Canucks, but for one reason or the another didn’t make the cut: Frank Corrado, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, and Nicklas Jensen.

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No youth in Canucks’ expected opening night lineup

At the Canucks’ season-ending press conference in May, Mike Gillis repeatedly emphasized the idea of a reset and stressed the need for youth. “We need to have a different look,” he told reporters, “We need to get younger.”

That message continued during the summer, as Gillis reiterated, “I want to have opportunities for young players on this team.”

Now, after a busy weekend, those opportunities have disappeared. None of the Canucks’ highly-touted young prospects will be on the ice in San Jose as the Canucks face the Sharks to open the season. In fact, only two players under the age of 25 is expected to be in the lineup: Chris Tanev and new acquisition Zac Dalpe. For Canucks fans excited to see homegrown prospects make the team, the Canucks’ current roster has to be a disappointment.

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Camp Cuts: Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk sent back to junior, Jeremy Welsh reassigned to Utica

Last Friday, it looked like the Canucks had made the final cuts of camp, sending Frank Corrado and Zach Hamill to the AHL and Brendan Gaunce to junior. That left the Canucks with a 23-man roster that included 18-year-olds Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk, an exciting proposition for fans looking for an influx of fresh faces and high-end skill.

Then, like 80′s R&B girl group Teen Dream, Mike Gillis got busy and brought in three new players, two via trade and one via the waiver wire. That necessitated further cuts to the roster and both Horvat and Shinkaruk, along with newcomer Jeremy Welsh, were the victims.

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Young Stars Three Stars: Canucks prospects vs Sharks prospects, September 5, 2013

If you’re eager for the return of our regular I Watched This Game feature, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Since the game itself isn’t really the point of the Young Stars tournament, we’re instead looking at the games with a three stars format looking at individual performances and who stood out the most. We’ll be looking at the three best players from among the Canucks prospects as well as making a few other observations.

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Spitballin’ on Alberts re-signing, snarky Whitecaps, and prospects scoring beautiful goals

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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YouTube Scouting: Bo Horvat’s high-end finishing ability

When it comes to the NHL draft, we depend on scouting reports and draft rankings from experts. There are simply too many prospects and too many games to really get a read on draft-eligible players. For the Canucks’ top pick, Bo Horvat, I saw a little bit of him during the OHL Championships and Memorial Cup, but they were fleeting glimpses without much context.

The other option for seeing Horvat play is YouTube. The instant reaction of many fans when a draft pick is announced is to dive straight into the videos to find highlights that illustrate how he plays.

There’s an inherent bias in this type of “scouting,” of course. Highlight videos only show players doing “highlight-y” things: scoring goals, undressing goaltenders, and making pretty passes. It’s an incomplete picture at best and can sometimes be an entirely false picture. Still, combined with scouting reports and statistics, it’s better than nothing.

So what can we glean about Bo Horvat from YouTube? A decent amount, it turns out.

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