The Vancouver Canucks drafted London Knights centre Bo Horvat with the ninth overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Horvat’s head coach in London? None other than former NHL star, Dale Hunter.
Hunter played 1,407 games in the NHL, posting 1,020 (323-697-1020) and a whopping 3,563 penalty-minutes. Hunter has been the head coach of London since 2001, with the exception of 60 games during the 2011-12 season where he was the bench boss of the Washington Capitals.
Hunter has seen his share of talented players come and go during his time with London, and said Horvat is a versatile player that can be put in any situation.
“He is an all-rounded player that plays in all situations for us (London),” said Hunter, who was named head coach of Canada’s U18 program last week. “He plays the power-play, and he kills penalties. As a 17-year-old, it doesn’t happen very often where you go to the Memorial Cup and he is your number one centreman down the middle. For a 17-year-old kid that is quite an accomplishment, playing against guys like (Jets prospect Mark) Scheifele he did a great job and scored clutch goals for us.
“He scores big goals, he scored with half a second left in Game 7 of the OHL Final to beat Barrie, and puts up big numbers and takes care of his own end.”
The goal Hunter is referring with half a second left sent the Knights to the Memorial Cup this past May, marking the second consecutive year that London won the OHL Championship.
Hunter said the main thing for Horvat to improve on is his strength. Already at 205-pounds, Horvat should be able to develop to 215-pounds when he matures.
“Definitely all these kids (drafted) need to get stronger and add some muscle to their upper body,” said Hunter. “That’s the big thing for him (Horvat), he has the hockey sense and the drive to be a player, and he will work at getting stronger.
“He will be a player that will play for a lot of years. The Canucks got a player that is durable and will be a powerful centreman for them for a lot of years.”
Is he NHL ready right now? Hunter doesn’t rule that possibility out.
“I would never say never, he is one of these kids that can raise his level of game, but we will have to see when he goes to camp.”
Off the ice, Hunter describes Horvat as a natural leader and a great teammate.
“He has a great personality, he is a leader on our team and a great teammate for the other players, helping out the younger players on our team even though he is still young himself. He is a real team guy and the Canucks will be getting an assistant captain or captain of the future.”
When asked to compare Horvat to another player, Hunter couldn’t come up with an answer, but did say the Rodney, Ontario, native brings that “wow” factor.
“People have been asking me that and I can’t come up with anyone right now. He is going to be a centreman that you guys will say “oh wow!”, he takes big draws all the time, he is a great faceoff guy, one of the tops in our league. He is going out for Team Canada and I think he could be a strength for the team, again playing against older kids.”