It finally happened. After months of speculation about a contract stalemate and weeks of trade talks, the Canucks traded captain Bo Horvat to the Islanders for winger Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick. The impact of this trade in fantasy hockey could be enormous.
The Canucks got the pieces they asked for, and the Isles have taken the most valuable trade piece off the board. The price seems high – the Isles are not assured of a playoff spot, and their already-shallow prospect pool just lost arguably their top prospect. The trade makes much more sense if the Isles intend to re-sign Horvat, who will certainly cost them a big chunk of their cap space. GM Lou Lamoriello may be old-fashioned, but he’s not opposed to handing out big cheques – he signed Ilya Kovalchuk for 15 years, Patrick Marleau for three years when he was 37 years old and, heck, even Nikita Zaitsev (!) for seven years.
Here’s your trade breakdown for my fellow poolies. (Update: Vancouver Canucks GM Patrik Allvin said Aatu Raty will initially head to AHL Abbotsford. The story and the effect on his fantasy value have been updated.)
The general rule of thumb in any blockbuster trade – and this one qualifies, considering the league-wide interest in Horvat – is that whichever team is getting the best player usually wins the trade.
Horvat immediately strengthens an Isles roster that has trouble winning faceoffs, improves a power play that ranks 31st in the league and gives coach Lane Lambert a ton of flexibility when putting together his lines.
It’s unlikely Horvat’s usage changes all that much, but there will be a transition period as he leaves the only organization he has ever known. What has made Horvat so good this season – second in faceoff wins (625) and eighth in goals (31) – should translate well as long as he’s playing a lot of minutes and playing the bumper position on the power play.
We can expect a slight hit to Horvat’s goal-scoring because the Isles don’t have the same type of playmakers to feed him on the power play, but Horvat’s wrist shot has improved dramatically this season. He’s dangerous going downhill on either side when he had previously relied on his toe drag to barrel his way to the net, and his ability to score from mid-distance and a variety of angles should help avoid a dramatic drop-off in goal scoring. The spike in shooting percentage Horvat’s experiencing this season is not wholly dependent on the team he plays for, and as we saw in January with five goals in 13 games, his rate was already starting to dip before the trade.
The Isles would be wise to deploy Horvat similar to the way he’s been used by the Canucks all season, and should Horvat end up on a line with Mathew Barzal (more on that later), look for his offensive-zone starts to skyrocket.
Barzal starts in the offensive zone 84.62 percent of the time, compared to just 49.52 percent for Horvat at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com. That should be a boon for Horvat because it frees up some of his defensive responsibilities, and in recent years, he’s actually been miscast as a two-way player.
The Ripple Effect
The bigger impact of the Horvat trade is how his usage will affect the rest of the Isles’ lineup. Neither the Isles nor Canucks play any games until after the all-star break. We shall see how the new lines shake out, but the best move could be to shift Casey Cizikas back to center and move Barzal to the wing. Barzal has never been good in the dot, and ceding center ice to Horvat might give Barzal more freedom to create offensively because he doesn’t have to worry about covering on defense down low.
Cizikas is playing on a line with Barzal right now primarily to take faceoffs, but their skill sets are mismatched. Simply slotting Horvat into Anthony Beauvillier’s spot and having Horvat and Cizikas seems like a redundant move, and Cizikas is probably better off in a bottom-six role.
Could you imagine Barzal, a righty with elite playmaking ability, on an odd-man rush with Horvat, a lefty with good finishing ability? That’s a nightmare for goalies, and it’ll give the Isles another line that can score and allow them to keep Brock Nelson and Anders Lee together all the time.
If Horvat ends up with Barzal, that will give Barzal a huge fantasy boost. Defensive matchups will be a bigger problem for the opposition, with the Isles having two scoring lines, which will open up more opportunities for Nelson and Lee.
A power play with those four forwards, along with Noah Dobson at the point – he’s expected to return after the All-Star Game – should quickly revamp their power play into one of the league’s best units if they can establish some chemistry.
The Isles alternated between Pageau and Kyle Palmieri as the fifth player on their top unit, who have combined to score 16 goals to Horvat’s 31. The Isles rank 16th in shot attempts per 60 minutes on the power play, while the Canucks rank fifth. Horvat will certainly help the Isles improve.
The Canucks’ Void
Whether Rick Tocchet was showcasing Horvat for a potential trade or genuinely pressed to play him for 25-plus shifts and 20-plus minutes per night, Horvat’s departure leaves a huge void. The upside is that the Canucks’ lineup paints a pretty clear picture: Elias Pettersson will be their undisputed No. 1 center going forward, and J.T. Miller will play center full-time.
This won’t change much at even strength. The Canucks’ main deficiency is their defensive corps, so they’re still going to get caved in. Losing their top faceoff guy will make it harder, not easier.
On the power play, Horvat’s absence will be felt the most because he’s genuinely been one of the best in the league on the man advantage.
Everyone’s production will take a hit, particularly Miller, who scored 22 of his 44 points on the power play. Pettersson’s in a more interesting spot because it might allow him to take more shots, and he scored just his first power-play goal of the season Friday against the Jackets. It also opens up a spot for Brock Boeser to rejoin the top unit, which Andrei Kuzmenko had bumped at the beginning of the season. Boeser might be the only one who benefits.
On Raty and Beauvillier:
Raty was featured in this week’s head-to-head fantasy primer for Week 17, and a move to the Canucks opens up opportunities he might not have had on Long Island.
For starters, the Isles had plenty of depth down the middle. Being in contention for a playoff spot means emphasizing experience over development.
The Canucks are the opposite. They’re changing directions on the fly (again), and they received a prospect who can step in now. In 12 games with the Isles, Raty looked like he had taken strides and even played a few shifts with Barzal in his last game. Originally pegged as a first-round talent, Raty fell to 52nd overall at the 2021 NHL draft due to issues regarding his skating, hockey IQ and effort level. He played as an underager at the world juniors in 2020, but he was cut in 2021 and bounced back in 2022 to score 10 points in seven games.
Canucks GM Patrick Allvin announced after the trade that Raty would be assigned to AHL Abbotsford, though it may be temporary with the upcoming all-star break, and the Canucks don’t play until Monday. If Raty is recalled after the weekend, the Canucks will be eager to see what kind of impact Raty can make right away since it’s their goal to be as competitive as possible and avoid a full-on rebuild.
The Canucks lack depth at center and have been forced to play minor leaguer Sheldon Dries on their second power-play unit, so they can definitely use an extra body. Raty is an ideal fit to play bottom-six minutes as he gets acclimated to the NHL game and center the second power-play unit to show off his offensive wares. Raty went from a fringe fantasy asset to one that has a sneaky upside in deeper leagues as long as he can stick in the Canucks lineup.
As for Beauvillier, it’s at the point of his career where what you see is what you get. He’s a speedy winger who can play either side but has trouble finishing. Still, with Ilya Mikheyev shut down for the season due to ACL surgery, look for Beauvillier to get some top-six opportunities.
Conor Garland likely moves up the depth chart, while Beauvillier will likely replace Lane Pederson on Pettersson’s line. Hopefully, playing with Pettersson or even Miller can unlock Beauvillier’s offensive potential, but after years of toiling with a high-end playmaker in Barzal and only mustering no more than 18 goals in any given season, don’t get too excited.
TL;DR, give me the spark notes for fantasy:
Bo Horvat: Hold, some concern about usage negated by improvements in his individual skill
Aatu Raty: Trending up, with perhaps a regular role and PP2 opportunities if he stays with the NHL Canucks
Anthony Beauvillier: Hold, has yet to prove he can be a scoring winger
Mathew Barzal: Trending up, with Horvat as a potential linemate
Brock Nelson/Anders Lee: Trending slightly up, with Horvat/Barzal possibly taking away tougher D matchups
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Trending down, with a lot of faceoff work going to Horvat
Brock Boeser: Trending up, potentially rejoining PP1
Elias Pettersson: Hold, potentially more shooting opportunities with Horvat gone
J.T. Miller: Trending down due to his dependence on power-play production
- Bo Horvat Trade Has Huge Effect in Fantasy Hockey
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