To summarize why this is post is right here right now, Bo Horvat is on a hot streak, Jonathan Drouin's name is in trade rumours, and a Horvat-for-Drouin swap was kicked around for a bit over the past few days. So we're of course discussing Bo Horvat again, what his upside is, whether he's good right now, and all that fun stuff.
I'm not going to really spend a lot of time beating this drum, at least not right now, but while Horvat's talent is apparent, his overall performance has been kinda awful this year. Start with a prolonged offensive slump at the beginning of the year and some questionable defensive play throughout, and you get a 35.3% ES GoalsFor% on top of a 42.2% ChancesFor%. Those are Luca-Sbisa-at-centre numbers.
But honestly, what Horvat has done and is doing right now matters significantly less than what he's going to do in the future. Vancouver is going nowhere this season (or next season for that matter), so we should be most concerned about what Horvat's going to be doing when the team should be going somewhere.
As such, our focus should be on gauging Horvat's performance in the context of what his peers have done so we can get a sense of what reasonable expectations are for a 20-year old centre in the NHL, and ultimately how we can vaguely project him into the future.
Basically, I looked at every single 20-year old centre to play regular even strength minutes (half a season at 10 ES minutes per game, or roughly 400 ES minutes in one season. I know it's technically 410 but whatever, I'm not claiming this is an exercise in precision) and compared their 20-year old career-to-date year with Horvat's using Dom Galamini's WARRIOR charts available by clicking on this link.
Keep in mind that Dom doesn't use raw counts and stuff like CA/60 RelTM is pretty heavily regressed. Dom also uses multiple years of data, but with a heavy emphasis on the current year and prior years are diminished in value. The charts aren't perfect, nor do they capture total player value, but they're a solid ballpark figure to kick off any sort of rigorous investigation in the future, and are a good visualization tool nonetheless.
It's also important to note that while Horvat's usage is one of the biggest things held in his favour, there is absolutely no evidence that his usage is any different than the average of this group. Relative to every 20 year old centre to play regular NHL minutes since 2007-2008 (which is as far as Dom's data goes back) his TOI and CF% QoC are both pretty average, his personal TOI per game is average, and even his teammates, by both CF% and TOI%, are average for this group too.
Horvat's Offensive Zone Start% of 41.8% makes it appear that he's being buried, but a lot of this is Horvat's own doing. If you look at where he's actually starting his shifts and not just taking faceoffs, you'll find that Horvat is starting just 15% of his shifts in the defensive zone, and 13% in the offensive zone - a slight defensive slant, possibly even due to Vancouver as a team getting buried in their own zone more than average, but not close to being "buried" by his coach. For his career to date, Horvat has started 13.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and 13.1% of his shifts in the defensive zone.
(Shift start data via Micah Blake McCurdy @IneffectiveMath)
So with all that out of the way, let's compare Bo Horvat to everyone:
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals, 2008-2009
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers, 2015-2016
Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues, 2008-2009
Gilbert Brule, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2007-2008
Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals, 2015-2016
Alexander Burmistrov, Winnipeg Jets, 2012-2013
Andrew Cogliano, Edmonton Oilers, 2007-2008
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers, 2013-2014
Charlie Coyle, Minnesota Wild, 2012-2013
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2007-2008
Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes, 2015-2016
Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche, 2011-2012
Medicine Hat TigersBuffalo Sabres, 2010-2011
Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers, 2009-2010
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens, 2014-2015
Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres. 2014-2015
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers, 2008-2009
Martin Hanzal, Phoenix Coyotes, 2007-2008
Roman Horak, Calgary Flames, 2011-2012
Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2013-2014
Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals, 2011-2012
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2012-2013
Jacob Josefson, New Jersey Devils, 2011-2012
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings, 2007-2008
Anton Lander, Edmonton Oilers, 2011-2012
Curtis Lazar, Ottawa Senators, 2015-2016
Louis Leblanc, Montreal Canadiens, 2011-2012
Elias Lindholm, Carolina Hurricanes, 2015-2016
Bryan Little, Atlanta Thrashers, 2008-2009
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche, 2015-2016
Brandon McMillan, Anaheim Ducks, 2010-2011
Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames, 2015-2016
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers, 2013-2014
Ryan O' Reilly, Colorado Avalanche, 2011-2012
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets, 2013-2014
Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers, 2011-2012
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues, 2012-2013
Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins, 2012-2013
Andrew Shaw, Chicago Blackhawks, 2011-2012
James Sheppard, Minnesota Wild, 2008-2009
Vladimir Sobotka, Boston Bruins, 2007-2008
Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2008-2009
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2010-2011
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers, 2010-2011
Ryan Strome, New York Islanders, 2013-2014
Brandon Sutter, Carolina Hurricanes, 2009-2010
John Tavares, New York Islanders, 2011-2012
Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks, 2014-2015
Chris Tierney, San Jose Sharks, 2014-2015
Viktor Tikhonov, Phoenix Coyotes, 2008-2009
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks, 2008-2009
Alexander Wennberg, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2015-2016
Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators, 2010-2011
Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators, 2013-2014
Now, remember that this is a cursory glance more than anything, but I think it's fair to say that Horvat's behind the curve of where you want him to be, especially if you're holding out hope for a Ryan O'Reilly type player in two or three years' time. I also don't think you can wash out teammate effects from these charts, but we also don't really have much evidence that Horvat's average quality of teammate is much different from the majority of this group either.
Watching Horvat do stuff like this...
...makes it pretty easy to have confidence his raw talent level is above the numbers he's produced. On a personal note, I think Horvat's numbers should improve by the end of the season, and he should start moving towards mid-range 3rd line offensive levels at the very least. I'd also expect his CA/60 numbers relative to the rest of the Canucks to not remain in the gutter. Basically, I see no reason he shouldn't resemble Mark Scheifele or Sean Monahan by the time this season is done.
With all that said, even at just 20 years old, Horvat's likely running late on catching the O'Reilly/Staal two-way ace train. He's got a lot of ground to cover in a pretty short time if he's going to catch up.