Bo Horvat (left) is one of 3 Knights who could go in the first round of the NHL draft (Geoff Robins, The Canadian …
The London Knights have one all-purpose remedy: go to Bo.
The major junior hockey post-season is typically seen as the proving ground for prospects, the point where the accelerated develops gain separation. London centre Bo Horvat has done so through the first three rounds of post-season, making a case that 18-going-on-25 style makes him an OHL playoff MVP candidate. Horvat's 12 points (9G-3A) in 14 games represents only half the output of fellow super sophomore Max Domi, but the 6-foot, 203-pound centre has embodied being sound in all facets of the game.
"To be relied on by the coaching staff heavily as a 17-year-old shows that they have a lot of trust in me," Horvat said recently. "I like it. It adds a little bit more pressure. It pushes you even harder throughout the year."
Nine goals in 14 playoff games would be impressive in and of itself. Horvat (whose minor hockey odyssey, incidentally, was chronicled entertainingly in Ken Campbell's acclaimed book Selling The Dream) has been an all-purpose player for London. His checking and faceoff work helped London limit OHL scoring champion Vince Trocheck to three points during a five-game Western Conference final.
"He's got the whole package," Domi said recently. "He can play the whole 200-foot game, he's a special guy to be around on and off the ice. All the boys love him. He's out there taking big faceoffs, which you don't see every day from a 17-year-old. He's out there in tough situations playing against the other team's top line. It's special for a young kid to be able to do that."
It's not for nothing that the 17-game point streak Horvat enjoyed during the season overlapped with the Knights' record 24-game win streak. He would not be NHL Central Scouting's 15th-ranked North American skater if he was just about intangibles. He produces while performing tasks that are not reflected in OHL official summaries. That includes typically winning 60 to 70 per cent of his faceoffs on a given night.
"I've always taken a lot of pride in my draws," said Horvat, who is a cousin of Travis Konecny, the Ottawa 67's No. 1 overall pick in the recent OHL priority selection draft. "Last year I got put on the wing to learn that position. I work on that a lot with [Knights assistant coach] Dylan [Hunter]. He's been a really big help with the little things in the [faceoff] circle."
1. Whom in the NHL do you like to watch since he plays the type of game you're aspiring to play at that level someday?
"I really like Mike Richards [of the Los Angeles Kings]. He's pretty much been my idol ever since I was growing up. I used to watch him in junior when he played for Kitchener [Rangers]. That's who I try to model my game after, his leadership and his work ethic. He's a winner."
2. Who would you say is the most challenging defenceman you have played against in the Ontario Hockey League?
"I would have to say Dougie Hamilton [the Niagara IceDogs graduate now with the Boston Bruins]. He's big, hard to get around, with great offensive skill as well."
3. With this group of Knights, how vital has it been to realize you have to earn everything again, that there's no credit given for winning the league last seaosn?
"The team before, they worked really hard to get where they got to last year. We knew what it would take to do this year to follow in their footsteps. We're on the right path this year.
4. What teammate, or teammates, have affected you the most during your time in the OHL?
"teammate(s) "I got along with great with all the guys, but from last year, all the leaders — [captain Jarred] Tinordi, [Greg] McKegg, [Austin] Watson." (Tinordi and Watson each made their NHL debuts during the regular season with the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators. — Ed.)
"Even Harry [Knights captain Scott Harrington] this year has been a big influence. All their experience, seeing where they've been in hockey, is helping me see what it takes to get to the next level."
5. How do you describe your hometown, Rodney, Ont.?
"It's a really small town, only about 1,000 people. But it's a great town. I really like living there. Everyone knows each other walking down the street. You really feel at home. It's not too jam-packed."
(Editor's note: this is a composite of two interviews conducted at different points during the season.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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