“We’re dealing with a 27-year-old player in his prime.”
That’s what New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said after he acquired Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Cnaucks on Jan. 30, making himself adamantly clear that the acquisition was not just about this season.
He backed up his words with actions, inking Horvat to an eight-year deal worth $68 million.
At the time of the trade, the Islanders were hovering around a wild-card spot but had lost 10 of 12 games (2-7-3), clearly trending in the wrong direction.
But Horvat’s arrival changed the course of the season.
In 13 games with Horvat, the Islanders have gone 7-3-3 and currently sit in the top wild-card spot as they enter the biggest week of their season, with the Buffalo Sabres, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals–three wild-card foes–on tap.
The Islanders have scored 40 goals during his tenure, 3.07 goals per game.
They’ve allowed 33, just 2.54 goals per game.
While he’s been on the ice, the Islanders have outshot their opponents 165-119, out-chanced their opponents 162-121, and, where it matters most, have outscored their opponents 17-8, per NaturalStatrick.com.
Horvat has five goals and three assists in 13 games, averaging 21:17 minutes per game and winning 57.3 percent of his draws. He’s been instrumental in turning the Islanders’ power play around, as he’s been on the ice for seven of their eight power-play goals on 32 tries (25 percent).
The former Canucks captain has shined in the face-off dot. He’s won 57.3 percent of his draws, 62.3 percent of his offensive zone draws, and 61.1 percent of his defensive zone draws.
He’s been a bright spot and gave the Islanders a much-needed boost.
That’s as a whole, but what’s been more important is how Horvat has elevated his game once Jean-Gabriel Pageau went down and then Mathew Barzal.
Bo Horvat Since Jean-Gabriel Pageau Went Down
The New York Islanders have been without Jean-Gabriel Pageau for nine games.
Over that span, the Islanders have gone 5-2-2, outscoring their opponents 26-20, scoring 2.88 goals per game while allowing 2.22.
Although the versatile center returned to the practice ice Monday, Islanders head coach Lane Lambert did not have an answer when asked if he could be ready to play Tuesday night.
In his absence, Bo Horvat has played the highest amount of minutes on the team–by a good margin.
Yes, Horvat’s two goals and four points have not been anything to brag about, but it’s everything else he’s been doing to help the Islanders win games, especially late to secure wins.
Lambert has deployed Horvat 198:12 minutes, with Anders Lee being the next closest forward, having played 170:49.
Horvat’s blocked the second-most shots with 14, just three behind defenseman Adam Pelech and has won 58.47 percent of his draws.
With Pageau out, Horvat has had a more significant role on the penalty kill, playing the second-most minutes behind Casey Cizikas (19:34) at 16:27.
He’s won 12 of 17 short-handed draws (70.59 percent).
Because of Horvat’s versatility, Lambert has been able to use him like he would use Pageau, making Pageau’s absence not as catastrophic as it could have been. Without Horvat, the Islanders would have struggled mightily to fill their lineup given their lack of NHL depth, even more so when Barzal went down.
Bo Horvat Since Mathew Barzal Went Down
Joining a new team mid-season is hard enough. It’s even harder when you instantly have chemistry with a new face, and that face is taken away from you like we saw when Mathew Barzal went down with a serious injury in his seventh game alongside Horvat.
Without Barzal in the lineup, Bo Horvat has been given a handful of different linemates, playing most of his minute alongside Anders Lee.
As of now, newcomer Pierre Engvall seems to be his linemate for the foreseeable future.
Horvat and the Islanders have gone 4-1-1 without Barzal, outscoring their opponents 17-8, averaging 2.83 goals per game and just 1.33 goals against per.
While Barzal’s absence overlaps with Pageau’s, we get to look at Horvat in an even smaller sample size.
Horvat has played 126:43, still leading the forward group. His four points (two goals, two assists) are second to Brock Nelson’s six (three goals, three assists). He’s blocked the second-most shots amongst the forwards, with eight to Zach Parise’s 11. His face-off numbers are 66.06%.
With the puck-carrying Barzal not on his line, Horvat has taken over that role and has kept things simple. He’s taken shots from distance, has gone straight to the net, and has played responsible defensively–as per usual.
When Bo Horvat was acquired, many questioned if he could be the same player he was in Vancouver, coming over amid a career year on a struggling team. He had scored 31 goals with 23 assists in just 41 games, was shooting at a 21.7 percent clip, and had been a power-play specialist with 11 goals.
Playing to that level on a brand new team with more pressure than ever, Horvat has not been as lethal as he was. And that was to be expected. He’s scored five goals in 13 games, with three assists, is shooting at a 13.2 percent clip, and has scored just one power-play goal.
But consider that Horvat lost his linemate Barzal earlier in their tenure together, has been eating minutes like it’s candy, and those little things needed to win games, he’s done on a nightly basis. Yes, the Islanders likely want to see more offensive production, but at the end of the day, all that matters is wins.
The Islanders have a .654 point percentage with Horvat in the lineup and are seven games over .500 for the first time in four months, leading the wild-card race. If Lamoriello did not go out and make the move, the Islanders would likely be on the outside looking in, especially with the injuries to Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mathew Barzal.