Bo Horvat takes over as top prospect in Vancouver Canucks Top 20

By Larenzo Jensen

Bo Horvat - London Knights

Photo: London Knights center Bo Horvat finished the regular season in the team’s top five in goals (30) and points (74) (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Bo Horvat now leads the Vancouver Canucks Top 20 ranking as Nicklas Jensen has struggled to find his footing in the NHL this season.

This edition of the Top 20 also saw a handful of depth prospects, such as Peter Andersson, Ben Hutton, Cole Cassels and Dane Fox, improve their stock in the ranking.

1. (2) Bo Horvat, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 9th overall, 2013

The London Knights star is the complete package. Big, strong and with excellent defensive skills, he takes over top prospect designation with an even better year for the London Knights. Canuck fans can breathe a sigh of relief that he was not used as trade-bait at the deadline to add talent. Horvat represents the most complete, versatile player in the Canucks prospect system.

2. (1) Nicklas Jensen, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 29th overall, 2011

Jensen’s season surely did not begin the way he envisioned, with a shoulder injury and a slower-than-hoped recovery. Consistency will be the key moving forward for Jensen, as his great skating skills and quick release will only get him so far. He needs to make an impact on Canucks roster with his recent call-up. Prior to the recall to Vancouver, he started to find his scoring touch with the Utica Comets (Vancouver’s AHL affiliate) to the tune of 14 goals over last his 25 games.

3. (3) Brendan Gaunce, C, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 26th overall, 2012

The Erie Otters knew what they were looking for when they approached the Belleville Bulls, asking about Brendan Gaunce. They wanted a reliable, consistent player that plays a strong two-way game, and contributes in many different ways. He is still the point-per-game player he has been for some time and can shut down other top centers, making him a key piece of Erie’s playoff hopes.

4. (4) Jordan Schroeder, C, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2009

Hoping that his left ankle injuries are behind him now, Schroeder has an opportunity to establish himself on the Canucks starting lineup. He has proven he can score, but he and the Canucks have hit a terrible offensive lull, and they need to snap out of it. At this junction, even a few points to try to end the disappointing season on a positive note would go a long way for Schroeder. Since assisting on the game winner in a recent victory over the Flames, he has a goal and two assists in his last five games.

5. (5) Frank Corrado, D, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 150th overall, 2011

Canucks management felt it was more important to allow Corrado to mature further at the AHL level than rush him into limited minutes at the NHL level. He has put up respectable numbers so far this season with Utica, and the extra time with the Comets should ultimately make Corrado a more well-rounded defenseman in time.

6. (6) Hunter Shinkaruk, C/LW, 7.5D
Drafted 1st round, 24th overall, 2013

He took a run at making Canada's World Junior Championships team, playing through the pain of a torn labrum in his left hip. He was among the final three cut and does not regret any of it. You have to admire his determination, and has proven he can bounce back from injury and go on to put up career numbers. The Canucks need this kind of youthful exuberance, as well as the offensive firepower he packs, infused back into their lineup.

7. (7) Joacim Eriksson, G, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent, June 2013

With the promotion of Eddie Lack, Joacim Eriksson has been the go-to guy in Utica, and has proven he is more than equal to the task. Considering the Comets’ record, and ever-changing roster, he has been solid and provided some stability between the pipes, along with backup Joe Cannata.  He sports a nice save percentage at .916, as well as a new mask that Nicklas Jensen helped design.

8. (9) Joseph Labate, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 101st overall, 2011

The Wisconsin Badgers have 16 wins since December 1st, and Labate is one of the reasons for their success, heading into the Big Ten tournament. A total of 76 players in the Wisconsin Badgers have gone on to play in the NHL, could Labate become another? He has a lot of the tools necessary, and could further prove himself in the upcoming tournament in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

9. (12) Alexandre Grenier, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 90th overall, 2011

Grenier’s climb up the ranks is thanks to an excellent season with the Comets. Currently third on the team with 33 points in 53 games, his growth is one of the bright spots for Utica this year. His 2012-13 season saw him move around a lot, but the stability this season has provided him is surely one of the reasons for his rather surprising output.

10. (10) Joe Cannata, G, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 173rd overall, 2009
With so much happening within the organization’s goalie ranks, Cannata has tried to focus on what matters. Playing backup to Joacim Eriksson, Cannata is getting an opportunity to play on a Comets squad that has had its share of defensive deficiencies. Thankfully, Cannata has been a workhorse throughout his career, and seems to be handling the adversity well while gaining valuable experience.

11. (NR) Peter Andersson, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 143rd overall, 2009

Another pleasant surprise this season has been the development of Peter Andersson. Chipping in offensively with 11 point in 44 games, he is proving he can move the puck. Defensively, he is one of the few to have a positive plus/minus rating. If the 6’3 defenseman keeps this pace up, an audition with the Canucks next season could be a very real possibility.

12. (NR) Ben Hutton, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 147th overall, 2012

Storming into the Canucks top 20 is Ben Hutton, who is second in points on the University of Maine Black Bears. He leads the team with nine power-play goals through 35 games and has been shooting the lights out (116 shots in that span). Hutton and the Black Bears won 2-0 over Merrimack College in their first game of the Hockey East tournament, but despite a goal from Hutton in the quarterfinals match at Providence, Maine lost to the Friars 3-1.

13. (17) Cole Cassels, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 85th overall, 2013

Cassels, with the comfort of an entry-level contract already under his belt, has accomplished this season exactly what he said he had set out to do. He wanted to remain solid defensively, be used in all situations, and be counted on in an even larger capacity offensively. Currently (far and away) third on the team in overall points for the Oshawa Generals, Cassels is an integral part of their success this season, and could even lead them to bigger things yet.

14. (15) Henrik Tommernes, D, 7.0D
Drafted 7th round, 210th overall, 2011

Very much an offensive-minded defenseman, Tommernes’ experience of playing with men in the SHL helped ready him for hockey in North America. His defensive awareness and timing on pinching in at the point still need work, but he can distribute the puck and score, both of which are reflected in his steady ascension in the prospect ranks.

15. (14) Yann Sauve, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2008

Almost identically to the 2010-11 season, Sauve recently got a few game call-up to the Canucks’ squad, with very similar results. He acquitted himself decently, with a couple of mistakes sprinkled in, but otherwise handled the ice time well. His current one-year contract expires in July, thus the off-season will be quite telling as it pertains to his future with the Canucks.

16. (20) Darren Archibald, LW, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, December 2010

A big, strong presence in the offensive zone, with good hands and a true nose for the net, Archibald has a number of things going for him. Opportunity is one of those things, being a true left winger in a system deprived of such. He also fits into Canucks head coach John Tortorella’s strategy and creates room for his teammates. Archibald is definitely a prospect moving in the right direction.

17. (13) Alexandre Mallet, C, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 57th overall, 2012

Because Mallet has surprised hockey pundits in the past, it is difficult to refute his potential. It is also difficult to prognosticate what type of player he could become for the Canucks. He certainly makes life difficult on the ice for the opposition, attested to by his plus-minus rating, even on a club with few on the positive side. He has played the whole season in Utica, which also is a good sign.

18. (8) Patrick McNally, D, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 115th overall, 2010

McNally’s ranking takes a hit due to his struggles to regain his form since his yearlong suspension from the Harvard hockey team. While the experience ultimately could strengthen his resolve as a hockey player and a scholar, he has had difficulty playing up to the level he was at prior to the incident. He also recently missed a couple of weeks of action, which certainly has not helped his development.

19. (NR) Dane Fox, C, 6.0C
Signed as a free agent, December 2013

Fox is the kind of player an NHL team goes out and signs if they are having trouble scoring goals. The Canucks have had success finding players willing to sign free agent contracts, and they are hoping Fox is another such signing. There is always skepticism when a 20-year-old puts up big numbers in junior, but when that gamble does not cost you a draft pick or a current prospect, it is an easy decision.

20. (19) Jordan Subban, D, 6.5D
Drafted 4th round, 115th overall, 2013

When Belleville Bulls management decided to obtain assets for some of their top players this season, it signaled sweeping changes for the team. Subban has helped pick up the slack offensively, currently second on the team in points. Unfortunately, the team as a whole has seen their plus-minus rating plummet, Subban included. The OHL playoffs are surprisingly a possibility still, but the season has definitely been a gut-check for the remaining Bulls.