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Bo Horvat emerging as star with Canucks

Young forward helping Vancouver stay in mix for Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- So much of what is making hockey fans happy across Canada is the presence of all the great young talent, spilling around the seven NHL precincts.

The Edmonton Oilers lead the way with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two young generational players that look as if they will help them end a discouraging 10-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought. The Toronto Maple Leafs counter with the trio of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitchell Marner, part of the renaissance of one of the NHL's great franchises. The presence of Matthew Tkachuk, son of Keith Tkachuk, has contributed to the Calgary Flames' sneaky good run of late - seven consecutive wins, vaulting from the fringes of the wild-card race in the Western Conference to the edge of serious playoff contention.

But largely overlooked in all this abundance of fresh talent is Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat, who had 48 hours to remember in a weekend to forget for the NHL's two Southern California teams. Horvat had three assists to lead the Canucks to a 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, and then he opened the scoring to help the Canucks edge the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 at Honda Center on Sunday.

It was his team-leading 20th goal of the season. The Canucks are six points out of the second wild card in the West.

"We keep battling," Horvat said. "We keep trying to prove people wrong. This team has a lot of fight, a lot of character and a lot of good hockey players. We're right there."

Horvat was in Southern California in January as the Canucks' representative in the All-Star Game. It was significant because usually, there is a Sedin or two, miles ahead of any Vancouver player on the depth chart when it comes to awards and honors.

"Just being part of that special weekend," Horvat said. "You couldn't have had a better year. The top 100 players were there and to be around all those great players, at such a young age, it was definitely a huge eye-opener for me."

Video: VAN@ANA: Horvat stuffs a rebound into the cage in 1st

One or the other Sedin, Henrik or Daniel, has led the Canucks in scoring for the past 10 seasons, the twin faces of the franchise practically since they arrived in the NHL.

But the Canucks are in transition and it looks as if Horvat is the block to build around, leading them in scoring with 45 points, an all-around talent (ninth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft), which was traded to Vancouver from New Jersey in a franchise-altering swap for goaltender Cory Schneider.

The acquisition cost to Vancouver was high; and as a result, Horvat faced pressure to perform from the get-go. But he's managed it well, and the Canucks are enjoying the chance to be spoilers, ruining the weekend for the Kings and Ducks.

On Sunday, Vancouver goaltender Richard Bachman made 43 saves against the Ducks, which was his first win since Oct. 30, 2015 against the Arizona Coyotes. He has spent most of this season with Utica of the American Hockey League.

The bulk of Bachman's other NHL games were with the Dallas Stars, and he played 10 with the Edmonton Oilers, three in 2013-14 and seven in 2014-15. So Bachman has a decent frame of reference when it comes to watching young emerging players.

"Bo's a one-of-a-kind guy," Bachman said. "And I've had the pleasure to play with some really good young players when I was in Edmonton. When I was in Dallas, we had Jamie Benn coming up. But Bo … it's almost like he's a 10-year vet. He just goes about his business, shows up every night. When the team needs a big shift, he gives it to you.

"When you're off the ice and someone new steps in the locker room, he's one of the first guys to welcome that player. The way he carries himself. It's pretty amazing for how young he is. You forget sometimes that he's still just a kid, learning the game. It's fun to see him doing so well."

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