They may not have had his jersey in stock with the other All Stars, but on the ice Bo Horvat fit right in with the rest of the best.
Some might have questioned his selection — he’s tied for 62nd in the league in goals and 72nd in points — and, to be fair to the doubters, he was certainly only selected because every team needs a representative and he’s been the best Canuck. But when it came time to prove he belonged, he did so.
Sure, the entire All-Star weekend was overshadowed by Chris Pronger smashing Justin Bieber up against the boards in the celebrity game, but Horvat still had a solid debut as an All-Star, holding his own in the skills competition and shining during the game itself. Er, games themselves. I’m still not used to the new 3-on-3 tournament format.
The skills competition as a whole was largely a bust and this is coming from a guy who generally loves the skills competition. They removed the Breakaway Challenge, which has been the highlight of the event over the last few years, and replaced it with the Four Line Challenge, officially the worst event in the history of skills competitions.
Horvat played a small role in making the Four Line Challenge not entirely suck, handing off his second opportunity to hit a tiny target in the net from the opposite goal line to Mike Smith, who nailed it.
Pretty impressive 200-foot shot from Mike Smith pic.twitter.com/IKJaMCTwtx— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 29, 2017
It didn’t make up for the boring nature of watching players miss targets from long distances. The puck literally went in the net just four times in the entire event. Whoever came up with this event should be sent to the salt mines.
Horvat did get a chance to participate in a real event, taking on Patrik Laine in the fastest skater competition. He was trailing Laine by a step in the final stretch, but at the last moment stretched out his stick to beat Laine by a 100th of a second, only to have the league review it and give the win to Laine.
I mean, fair enough. Laine was clearly faster. But the problem is that they have no real rules for this sort of thing. When does the timer stop? When the stick crosses the line? Skate? Any part of the body? Who knows?
The NHL basically just makes it up as they go along, which is why Dylan Larkin got a running start when he set the record for fastest skater last year, but Connor McDavid had a standing start this year. It’s ridiculous and makes it impossible to compare players from different years, but it’s clear that the NHL just doesn’t care.
In any case, it was a strong showing for Horvat, who finished faster than Wayne Simmonds and Nathan Mackinnon.
In the 3-on-3 tournament, Horvat stood out. His line with Cam Fowler and Johnny Gaudreau was dominant at times, despite Gaudreau’s apparent inability to pass Horvat the puck. As each game progressed, Gaudreau repeatedly looked off Horvat to try to score himself. As much as fans and announcers lauded the chemistry of Gaudreau and Horvat, it was largely non-existent.
Horvat finished with two goals and two assists between the Pacific Division’s two games. Even better, his two goals were among the prettiest of the weekend.
His first goal came on a breakaway, as he faked a deke to the backhand, then flipped the puck over Devan Dubnyk’s blocker. That goal ensured that every skater on the Pacific Division team had at least one goal in the 10-3 stomping.
With a million dollars and bragging rights on the line, things tightened up in the final against the Metropolitan Division, making Horvat’s second goal a little more consequential than his first.
The goal came off one of Gaudreau’s ever-rare passes, finding Horvat out front from behind the net. Horvat wasted no time roofing the shot, going just under the bar before Alex Ovechkin could check him. It was an All-Star caliber finish.
Horvat clearly belonged at the All-Star Game and I have a feeling it won’t be his last. At just 21, Horvat looked right at home with the other young stars of the game: now the Canucks just need to build a team around him.