Vancouver rookie center Bo Horvat only played 5:56 of Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime victory versus Ottawa.
It was one of the few times this season that Canucks coach Willie Desjardins didn’t consistently roll four lines, as young wingers Brandon DeFazio and Nicklas Jensen, called up from the AHL due to injuries, didn’t play much either.
It also, naturally, raised the question of whether Horvat will remain in the NHL for the rest of the season, or if he’ll be sent back to junior after his nine-game audition (he’s played five so far, with no points) is over.
Yesterday, GM Jim Benning told TSN 1040 radio (audio) that that decision has yet to be made; however, Benning did say that Horvat has “played well for us so far.”
So, what are his chances of sticking?
Well, if there’s one thing that Horvat has going for him, it may be the fact that, unlike other blue-chip forward prospects his age, he doesn’t need to be in a scoring role in order to be effective. He’s got the strength to grind it out in the bottom six.
“He comes as advertised,” said Benning. “He’s good on the draws. He’s good down low in his own end. In the offensive end, he goes to the front of the net hard. He’s a net-front presence. For a kid 19 years old, he’s physically strong, so he can compete in the battles. He’s a smart defensive player first, and from there comes his offense.”
It’s also possible that, with more experienced line mates, Desjardins may be able to trust Horvat more than he trusted him Tuesday.
Or, you know…maybe not.
“Willie has full control over who to play and how much to play,” said Benning. “Willie wants to win games, so that’s just the way it is. But having said that, some of the games he’s played Bo in key situations, and until he gets to see Bo more, and get to know Bo more, and trust in the things that Bo’s good at, I think it’s a learning curve for Willie and for Bo.”
The Canucks host Arizona tomorrow.