After reaching terms to a new six year, $33MM contract yesterday, Vancover Canucks’ forward Bo Horvat is now labeled as a “foundational” piece of the team. But many question how good can the 22-year-old center get. After all, the young star had a solid season a year ago, putting up 20 goals and 32 assists. But how much farther can he take his game?
Mike Halford of The Athletic (subscription required) interviewed his former coach Willie Dejardins about what the potential future of Horvat is, who says that one of Horvat’s top qualities is that being average just isn’t good enough. The veteran coach writes that when he was first drafted, the big knock on him was his lack of skating skills. However, he has been working on those skills for the last few years, including instruction from power-skating expert Kathy McIlvaine. The results were evident when he found himself competing with St. Louis’ speedster Vladimir Tarasenko in the fastest skating event in the All-Star game this past January.
“The speed of his game – when he first came in, he wasn’t a great skater,” Desjardins explained. “And somehow along the line he changed that, and that doesn’t happen very often at that level, or to that degree. That shows a high commitment level.”
Desjardins also points out in the article that Horvat’s greatest gift is his defense, although the metrics don’t show that yet. What he does say is that Horvat’s will to become a great player will push him up among the top centers of the Pacific Division where he will find himself playing against top talent like Connor McDavid and Ryan Kesler daily.
- Consider Pittsburgh prospect Teddy Blueger as a potential candidate for that third-line center spot. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette writes that Blueger has worked hard at his skating in the last few years in hopes of breaking into the Pittsburgh Penguins front lines. Although the Penguins could trade for a veteran at any time, Blueger, has the ability to break into that lineup. Having scored 108 points in for years at Minnesota State University – Mankato, putting him in the top 10 all-time in the school’s history, he will have quite a challenge to win a job with the Penguins this year. He will have to compete with veteran Carter Rowney, Jay McClement, Jean-Sebastien Dea and Greg McKegg for that spot.
- MLive’s Ansar Khan breaks down Luke Witkowski, who signed this offseason to a two-year deal worth $750K per year. The 27-year-old defenseman played sporadically for the past three years with the Tampa Bay Lightning and now, according to Khan, plan to move him to right wing. Khan writes that unless the team suffers numerous defensive injuries, that Witkowski will not play defense this year. Instead, he will compete with prospect Tyler Bertuzzi for the fourth-line wing spot opposite Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening and would be a perfect fit as the team’s 13th skater if Bertuzzi makes the team.