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:

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.