Since Jan. 30, Bo Horvat has been a member of the New York Islanders. But he’s only been physically on Long Island for about a week and a half.
Although the Islanders have dropped three of the five games with him in the lineup (2-1-2), currently on a three-game skid, the 27-year-old newcomer has been dominant on the ice.
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In five games, Horvat has three goals on 17 shots, shooting at a 17.1 percent clip. He has an assist as well, winning 52.6 percent of his face-offs, and has transcended the power play, which has five goals on 15 opportunities (33 percent).
Immediately upon hitting the Northwell Health ice sheet in East Meadow after the All-Star break, head coach Lane Lambert had Horvat playing with Mat Barzal.
He’s jelled with the face of the franchise, which has been one of the only positives for the Islanders over their recent stretch.
In 70:04 minutes together, per Natural Stat Trick, when these two have been on the ice, the Islanders have outscored their opponents 2-1, outshooting them 40-21.
Barzal has the primary assist on both of Horvat’s five-on-five goals.
One of the first things Horvat told NYI Hockey Now, right after his first game with the Islanders in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, was to expect the unexpected from Barzal.
He’s been ready.
“Obviously, he’s got tremendous skill and playmaking ability and speed and all that, so yeah, just trying to get open spaces for him,” Horvat said.
As important as on-ice production is, Horvat has jelled in the room as well.
“Yeah, everybody’s been great. I mean, everybody’s made the transition really easy, and I’m just, I’m really happy to be here,” Horvat said, something he has said since his first practice with the Islanders. “Trying to get settled as best I can. And yeah, it’s been awesome so far.”
Going from the Vancouver Canucks, a messy situation, getting acclimated to the new systems and structures is something Horvat had been eager to do since he spoke down in South Beach at the 2023 NHL All-Star festivities.
He just wanted to get to Long Island and get his new journey started.
Five games in and a handful of team practices, Horvat said that he feels much more comfortable with the systems.
“The coaching staff made it super easy just with the whole transition and showing me clips and all that kind of stuff and just telling me if I’m doing anything wrong,” he said. “So it’s been an easy transition that way, and starting to get more and more comfortable.”
Horvat spoke often about his family when he decided to ink an eight-year extension with the Islanders and told NYI Hockey Now the game plan with getting the family down here.
“Well, dad’s coming down for the dad’s trip, and then mom hasn’t been down yet,” Horvat said. “But my wife’s been down, but she’s back now trying to get all the kids packed up and ready to go, and they should be here sometime next week.”
Joining a new locker room is never an easy thing, but Horvat had played with a handful of Islanders in Barzal, Josh Bailey, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Ryan Pulock at the 2018 Worlds with Team Canada, which made it an easier transition.
NYI Hockey Now asked Horvat if there was anyone he hadn’t known that he’s become great friends with rather quickly.
“Yeah, Lee. He made it easy to transition,” Horvat said. “I mean, everybody’s been great. You try to keep to yourself as much as you can, but then obviously, open up to guys and try to ask different questions. So they’ve been really helpful that way.”
We, as writers and fans of the sport, tend to focus solely on the hockey aspects of players, measuring comfortability with how players perform on the ice. But for anyone who has played on any sports team, the bonding aspect is critical and invaluable.
Horvat said the off-ice bonding has helped big time.
“Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I mean, go for dinners, and we had a get-together for the Super Bowl and stuff like that, so it was easy to talk to guys then and get to know guys better when you’re away from the rink and seeing their families and stuff like that,” he said.
“So yeah, it’s been great.”
Although his eight-year extension, worth $68 million, doesn’t start until next season, NYI Hockey Now asked if he’s had to pick up the bill for any team dinners yet.
“No, not yet,” Horvat said. “I’m sure a team dinner is going to be coming my way pretty soon.”
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