Reports: Devils interested in Horvat and Nyquist
The New Jersey Devils have been linked to a couple of forwards in advance of the trade deadline. Alex Chauvancy dives into those rumors in his latest.
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By Alex Chauvancy (@AlexC_THW)
Although the NHL trade deadline is still about a month and a half away, rumors are beginning to make their way to the surface.
On yesterday's episode of 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman confirmed the New Jersey Devils' interest in San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier.
Acquiring Meier would obviously be a coup for the Devils. But, for those reading the intro to this and expecting to read about Meier, I am here to disappoint you. Still, that doesn't mean there aren't other juicy rumors to discuss.
Earlier this week, The Fourth Period's Irfaan Gaffar reported that the Devils have had interest in Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat for some time.
Friedman more or less confirmed this on 32 Thoughts yesterday, as well when mentioning teams that have interest in Horvat.
Not only did The Fourth Period report the Devils' interest in Horvat; they also noted the Devils have kicked tires on Columbus Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist.
The Devils and general manager Tom Fitzgerald have clearly been working the phones looking to make additions for the stretch run. That shouldn't be a surprise, with the team sitting at 29-12-4 and in second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Let's look at Horvat and Nyquist and see how they could fit into the team's deadline plans.
Horvat's breakout season makes him top target
Only a few months ago it seemed like a foregone conclusion Horvat would re-sign with the Canucks. But one J.T. Miller contract extension, and widespread organizational dysfunction a few months later, it appears that Horvat is all but out the door in Vancouver.
From the Canucks' standpoint, they've lucked out that they'll have to trade Horvat now. He already has 30 goals and 49 points through 45 games, which puts him on pace to finish with 55 goals and 89 points. The Canucks believe he's having an outlier season, and they'd be right since he's shooting 22.4 percent.
Even though Horvat is in the midst of a career season that's unlikely to be repeated, he's still a very good player.
Since the start of 2020-21, he has averaged 1.85 points per hour at five-on-five while averaging 0.94 goals per hour. Even before his breakout this season, he had averaged 30 goals and 60 points per 82 games in his three previous years.
This season, he's taken things to new heights. He's averaging 2.66 points per hour and has been one of the top scorers in the league. His expected goals above replacement (xGAR) of 19 is easily a career-high and ranks fifth in the league, placing him just ahead of Brayden Point, Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt. Horvat's impacts have been solid at even strength too:
The thing with Horvat is his shot generation hasn't spiked compared to his previous three seasons. From 2019-22, he averaged 6.9 shots per hour at five-on-five. This season, he's averaging 7.11. The biggest difference is he's shooting over 21 percent at that game state. There will be regression in his game, whether next season or with whatever team acquires him ahead of the trade deadline; his individual point percentage of 80 percent also suggests as much.
That's a risk any team interested in trading for him will have to consider. Just because he's shooting 22 percent with the Canucks doesn't mean that'll continue with a new roster where he'll have different linemates and likely be in a new system. With that said, we know he was a legitimate top-six forward before the breakout. He would be an upgrade for the Devils; but is he actually a fit?
Horvat has been a center his entire career. And to my knowledge, he hasn't played wing much, if at all. Of course, the Devils have Hughes and Nico Hischier down the middle in their top-six. They could load up and play all three at center, which is not something many playoff teams could compete with come the postseason.
Having seen how the Devils have used Erik Haula this season, I wouldn't be surprised if they think they could use Horvat as a winger in a similar role to Haula alongside Hughes.
Horvat is winning 55.9 percent of his draws, just a tick above the 55 percent Haula is winning. Devils head coach Lindy Ruff has stated that part of the reason Haula has played so much alongside Hughes is because of faceoffs. Horvat could fill that role.
While Horvat is not as good a finisher as his 22.4 shooting percentage this season, he's still a 14 percent shooter for his career and has averaged 27 goals per 82 games. He can put the puck in the back of the net and would be a significant scoring upgrade over Haula on Hughes' wing.
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