NEWARK, N.J. -- Bo Horvat had no idea the Vancouver Canucks had their sights set on him when the Canucks acquired the ninth pick of the 2013 NHL Draft from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for goaltender Cory Schneider.
Even though Schneider was the more experienced player in the trade, he and Horvat will be linked as a result of that draft-day transaction.
"I would like to hope that they traded me for another good player," Schneider said. "The Canucks had an area of surplus with goaltending at the time and New Jersey had a need. I'm sure it will be linked but it was a hockey trade that works out for both teams.
"In the end I think both sides will say they were pretty happy with the deal."
Center - VAN
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 17
SOG: 40 | +/-: -3
The 6-foot, 206-pound left-handed shooting Horvat is grateful to have an opportunity in Vancouver as a 19-year-old.
Horvat will get his second chance to play against Schneider when the Canucks visit the Devils at Prudential Center on Friday. In the earlier meeting Horvat had one shot on goal and one hit in a 2-0 victory at Rogers Arena on Nov. 25, 2014.
"I actually had no idea where I was going to go in the draft or what would happen," Horvat said. "As soon as that trade happened I was in shock a little bit and I didn't know where I would go. But once the Canucks called my name I was pretty excited to go to a Canadian city like this and be a part of the Canucks. I was pretty proud."
The trade has worked out for both sides, even though the Canucks are in the thick of the Stanley Cup Playoffs race and the Devils heading toward a third straight season out of the postseason.
"I think if you look at the statistics and drafting a 17- or 18-year-old player, you never know," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "In Schneider you've got a proven player who had gone through the minor-league and major-league systems so there was no hesitation for us. If you can get a proven player and feel that where you're drafting that player he is much better than anyone you could draft for that given time, and I'm not talking short term but long term, than you can make that move."
Schneider has been the Devils' most valuable player this season, his first as a full-time NHL starting goaltender. Horvat is turning out to be everything the Canucks envisioned when they drafted him. He's second among NHL rookies in faceoff wins (244 of 470, 51.9 percent) and ranks among the top 20 among rookies in goals (eight), assists (nine) and points (17).
Goalie - NJD
GAA: 2.27 | SVP: .924
It was his ability on faceoffs that allowed him to remain in Vancouver at the start of the season.
"I think I've felt more comfortable as the season has gone on," Horvat said. "Especially for me being a young guy in the League. It took me a little bit to get used to everything. Once you start getting confident and start to hang on to the puck a little more, it definitely helps."
He has five goals and nine points in the past 11 games, including a regulation goal Thursday against the New York Rangers in a 5-4 shootout victory.
Horvat said he credits Canucks coach Willie Desjardins for helping him round out his game at the NHL level.
"All the guys really respect [Desjardins] as a coach," Horvat said. "He loves to win and get the best out of us every night. If we come to work and play it doesn't matter if we win or lose, he's happy with our work ethic."
Desjardins, however, said Horvat deserves credit for how he's grown into a full-time NHL player this season.
"Everything he got he earned," Desjardins said of Horvat. "His line [with Ronalds Kenins and Jannik Hansen] has played really well. It's not a matter of being young but how hard you play and we have a lot of guys playing hard right now. And Bo is one of them."
Horvat said he is happy the Canucks are in position to earn a spot in the playoffs.
"Anytime you're a rookie and have a chance to get into the playoffs, that's huge," Horvat said. "I think we have a team that has some older guys with a lot of character and have been in the League for a while. They know what it takes to get to the Stanley Cup Final. To be in that tight a race in my first year is really cool."