CHICAGO — Bo Horvat is ready and willing to be the next captain of the Vancouver Canucks.
He’s just waiting for the tap on the shoulder.
The team left the role vacant last season following the retirement of Henrik Sedin and his twin brother Daniel, but Horvat said Thursday he’d be willing to take on the hefty responsibility in a razor-focused Canadian hockey market.
“It’d be an unbelievable honour to wear the ‘C’ — to wear any letter for that matter,” the 24-year-old centre said at the NHL/NHLPA North American Player Media Tour. “Even to be in consideration is definitely humbling. But it wouldn’t change who I am and it wouldn’t change the type of player I want to be.
“I wouldn’t let it affect me that way, but I’d just try to be the best leader I can be.”
Horvat certainly had some good teachers.
He sat a couple stalls away from the Sedins in Vancouver’s locker room from the time he made the league at age 19 until the Swedish superstars waved goodbye in April 2018.
There were lean years, but the superstar Swedes were always there to face reporters.
“Their last three years, it definitely wasn’t easy standing in front of the media and taking the heat, and talking every single day,” Horvat said. “Just watching it, you were like, ‘How did these guys do it?’ I kind of had that responsibility last year, so I got a little bit of practice.
“I’d be ready to make that next step.”
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) September 5, 2019
Vancouver is far from the only NHL team without a captain — the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings are among the other seven without one — but Horvat said it’s important in the long run to have one voice.
“It is nice to have a guy to lean on and a guy to go to when times are tough and have somebody to set the tone,” he said. “But at the same time there’s no rush for our team or any team to name one right away. It’s obviously up to the (general manager) and the coaching staff to decide who they think is the best fit.
“We have a lot of great guys in our room.”
The Canucks have missed the playoffs the last four seasons, but made a number of off-season acquisitions in hopes of challenging for a spot in the Western Conference in 2019-20.
Vancouver dove into free agency by signing defencemen Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn, as well as winger Micheal Ferland, while forward J.T. Miller was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I really like our additions,” Horvat said. “I definitely think they’re going to help us make the next step.”
Another key would be getting restricted free agent Brock Boeser in town for training camp, but the star winger continues to negotiate a new contract with the team.
Horvat knows what the uncertainty can be like after waiting until Sept. 8, 2017, to sign a six-year, US$33-million extension with Vancouver coming out of his entry-level deal.
“I’ve been talking to (Boeser) a little bit, just asking how things are going,” Horvat said. “I’ve been through it. It’s not easy, especially this late in the summer.
“We’d love to have Brock for camp and love to have him to start the season, because he’s such a huge part of our team. Hopefully they can get a deal done.”
One player Horvat and his teammates will be counting on from Day 1 is Elias Pettersson — the slick Swede that took the NHL by storm early last season on the way to capturing the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
“I don’t think he has a ceiling,” Horvat said. “He hasn’t completely filled out in his body yet … and he’s already doing what he’s doing right now.”
Horvat — who put up career-highs in goals (27), assists (34) and points (61) in a breakout season of his own — said it was hard to tell how good Pettersson was until he recorded a goal and an assist in his very first game, and didn’t look back.
“You’re just like, ‘Wow, this kid’s a player,”’ he said. “He continued to keep doing it game after game after game. It’s not easy. As a young guy, maybe you have a couple good nights here and there, but he just seemed to keep doing it night in and night out.
“He’s a special player. We’re lucky to have him. He’s just going to keep getting better as he gets older and gets more experience and bigger and stronger.
“So … look out.”
Joshua Clipperton, THE CANADIAN PRESS