Sep 24, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) looks on during the third period of the preseason game against the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center at San Jose. The San Jose Sharks defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres Wish List #29: Bo Horvat

Well, Buffalo Sabres fans – it’s been a long, arduous journey, but I have finally arrived!  At the end of my Wish List series, that is.  And I’m not sure how arduous it has been; most of my time was spent sitting in a fairly comfortable chair at my house.  You know, my back is a little stiff today, so maybe . . . .

Enough!  Time to direct your attention to the one team I have yet to discuss: the Vancouver Canucks.

When you discuss the Cancuks, the first names you are going to inevitably think of are Henrik SedinDaniel Sedin, and Ryan Kesler.   Sure, I would take any of those three (although the Sedin twins are not exactly known for their defensive abilities) – but I have already broken a few rules during this series, and I want to end strong!  That’s why I am going with

Bo Horvat, F

Let’s be brutally honest: the Buffalo Sabres were kind of atrocious in the face-off circle last season.  Fortunately for the players tasked with trying to win draws, the Sabres were even worse on the power play, so the struggles on face-offs didn’t look quite so bad . . . but gaining control of the puck is pretty important, wouldn’t you say?  How many power plays could have ended with goals being scored had the Sabres been able to win a higher percentage of draws in the offensive zone?

Bo Horvat wins face-offs.  I mean, it’s right there in his scouting report: “Bo Horvat wins face-offs.”  (Okay, no scouting report worded it like THAT, but his skills in the circle were certainly highlighted.)  He was one of the best in the face-off circle during his time in the OHL playing for the London Knights, and with hard work he should be able to make a similar name for himself in the NHL, too.

Something else the Sabres lacked last year that Horvat brings to the rink: true two-way centers. It’s been said time and time again, but neither Cody Hodgson nor Tyler Ennis currently play very good defense.  Of the two, Hodgson has the best chance of learning how to be strong on the backcheck, whereas Ennis is most likely going to be a defensive liability his entire career.   Horvat is probably never going to be an elite, first-line center in the NHL, but he almost certainly will have a solid career as a second-line center who uses his body to hit opponents, and hit the ice to block shots when necessary. He is not known for his scoring yet, but many scouts proclaimed him to be the most complete prospect in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, so his scoring will come.  Most importantly, if the Sabres had Horvat on the second line, they almost certainly would not see the gigantic negative point differential that they saw last year with Tyler Ennis on the second line.

He’s a work in progress, but he’s a workhorse who will be able to hold his own on both ends of the ice.  Enjoy his highlights, and thanks for the read!

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