Horvat making big strides for Vancouver

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At the 2013 NHL draft, the Vancouver Canucks sent one of the best goalies in the world, Cory Schneider, to New Jersey for the right to select Bo Horvat ninth overall.

Suffice to say, it was a big price for the Canucks to pay. Schneider has been excellent for the Devils, and there have certainly been days when Vancouver could’ve used him.

But more and more these days, Horvat is making Canucks fans feel better about that trade. The 21-year-old center had a goal and two assists in last night’s win over the Coyotes. With the three points, he found himself tied with Daniel Sedin for the most on the Canucks (13).

Among NHL centers, Horvat is right there in the company of some pretty good ones:

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It’s not just his points either. In Horvat, the Canucks see a two-way center with the potential to dominate at both ends of the ice.

“To me, Bo should be able to play against the other team’s top center,” said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, per the Vancouver Sun. “He’s big and strong and he’s good on draws, but to do that, he’s got to be a little better defensively. That’s a role I see him playing. And a lot of times, the other team’s top lines aren’t great defensively and that’s where he can score, too. I see him able to do both.”

The coach is right that Horvat still has things to learn defensively. He got a crash course last season when Brandon Sutter got hurt, and it was a real struggle at times. Horvat finished with a minus-30 rating, almost the lowest in the league.

But at the same time, Horvat showed flashes of brilliance offensively, his bursts of speed proving a handful for defensemen in one-on-one situations.

And to think, skating was once considered his major weakness. Not anymore.

Read more: Canucks lock up Ben Hutton for two more years

To be sure, Horvat still has a ways to go if he’s ever going to legitimately replace Henrik Sedin on the Canucks’ first line. He is not yet an elite puck distributor, and that’s another thing he’ll have to work on. More passes like the one he made last night to Sven Baertschi and he might really turn into something: