The New York Islanders and the Vancouver Canucks made the first big trade of the 2022-23 season during the All-Star break. The Islanders acquired Bo Horvat from the Canucks for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a conditional first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Horvat is the first star player to be traded this season, and it will impact the league.
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The Canucks and the Islanders will face each other on Thursday night at UBS Arena. Horvat will face the team that drafted him and where he spent the eight and a half seasons of his career, while Beauvillier will play his first game in New York as an opponent. So, how will the two feel about facing their former teams? How will the teams feel? It’s going to be a unique game, but one that will bring back memories and might provide an outlook on the future of the teams.
Horvat Facing the Canucks
While Horvat won’t receive a tribute before the game, something he will certainly receive in Vancouver, he will have mixed emotions heading into this matchup. His best years and arguably the greatest moments of his career were with the team. In eight seasons, he scored 201 goals and 219 assists and was named the captain in 2019, succeeding future Hall of Famer Henrik Sedin, who retired after the 2017-18 season.
Horvat was expected to become the face of the Canucks’ franchise and help lead the team back to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the two parties couldn’t agree on a long-term deal, and after the front office extended J.T. Miller with a seven-year deal, they didn’t have the cap space to keep the star player. Horvat received the eight-year extension he was looking for shortly after joining the Islanders and would like nothing more than to score against his former team. Like most players, he will want to show his former team what they missed out on.
The Canucks, meanwhile, will be ready for him. Granted, their defense has been a weakness this season, allowing 3.94 goals per game, including nine in their last two, but if anyone knows what Horvat does best, it’s the Canucks defense. Quinn Hughes, Luke Schenn, and Tyler Myers are well aware of his shot and scoring instincts.
Beauvillier’s Return Brings Back Memories
Beauvillier’s tenure on Long Island was a mixed bag, to say the least. In six and a half seasons with the team, he showed a high upside but never lived up to expectations, struggling to find a role in the forward unit in his last two seasons. Ultimately, his struggles made him easier to trade than other players, allowing him to thrive in a new setting.
At the same time, some of the Islanders’ most iconic moments recently involve Beauvillier. He was a top-six forward that helped set up scoring chances for Brock Nelson and generated shots on net from Josh Bailey passes. His 102 goals and 107 assists added offensive depth, while his 15 goals and 14 assists in the Stanley Cup Playoffs helped the Islanders reach the Semifinal in 2020 and 2021.
Moreover, he scored the final goal in Nassau Coliseum, closing out the franchise’s historic venue in style. In Game 6 of the 2021 Semifinal against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Beauvillier stole the puck in the offensive zone and quickly shot it past Andrei Vasilevskiy for the overtime winner. It was the greatest moment of the Barry Trotz era, pushing the Lightning to the brink.
The Islanders may have been willing to move him, but his tenure isn’t one to forget. While he took a step back in 2021-22 and never became the elite forward many hoped he’d become, he played a significant role in a great run. Beauvillier can become valuable to the Canucks, especially if he plays alongside a center who can make big plays on the rush and create open shots for him on the wing. He will help with the team’s retooling and would probably like to remind the Islanders of the good times and the offensive spark he provides.
Islanders’ Outlook for the Future
This is the Islanders’ window for a championship. They have a veteran-heavy roster, and the addition of Horvat is a signal that the team is all-in on winning the Stanley Cup. They are in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, making this game a must-win. The Canucks are one of the few teams on their schedule with a losing record, and they need to defeat them to remain in the playoff race.
The Islanders must be hoping that Horvat can build unique chemistry with Mathew Barzal. The two skaters are playing on the same line and not only have complementary skill sets but are both entering the prime of their careers. Barzal and Horvat connected for a goal in the 4-0 Feb. 7 win over the Seattle Kraken, showing what they can provide to the top line for years to come.
Canucks Outlook for the Future
The Canucks are near the bottom of the Western Conference but have high hopes for the future. Beauvillier has struggled recently, but at 25 years old, still has time to become a reliable offensive forward. Raty, meanwhile, has a high ceiling, and when he’s ready for the NHL, he could be an impactful center when the team is competitive again.
The Canucks are entering a retool, and the pieces they acquired in the Horvat deal are going to play a big role moving forward. This matchup and the season altogether might be one to forget, but there are bright spots, including promising players who will provide much-needed optimism. Against the Islanders, Beauvillier should be the one to make a few impactful plays, giving the team a glimpse into their future.