Solid postseason could make Horvat a high pick
TORONTO -- Every kid who ever picked up a hockey stick at some point pretended to be the player to score the championship goal at the buzzer.
London Knights forward Bo Horvat, No. 15 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft, got the rare opportunity to live the dream in Game 7 of the Ontario Hockey League finals.
With the Knights and Barrie Colts tied in the waning seconds of regulation, Horvat banged in a bouncing cross-ice pass just as the final buzzer sounded.
"Griff [Seth Griffith] made a nice play to dump it in and get it in deep," Horvat told NHL.com, reliving the moment. "I think there was five seconds left when he did that. It came around to [Alex] Broadhurst and he got along the wall and just fired it out front as fast as he could. Fortunately it made a couple bounces and came right to me and all I had to do was put it in."
Referees initially ruled the goal came after time had expired, but instant replay was needed to see just when the puck went in.
"That was probably the most nerve-wracking, however-long-it-took of my life," Horvat said. "Just the suspense. I thought for sure it was in, but I wasn't quite sure. The suspense and waiting for it was pretty nerve-wracking."
After a lengthy review, it was ruled the puck had crossed the goal line with 0.1 seconds left. The goal counted and the Knights were OHL champions for a second straight year.
Horvat said the suspense immediately turned to jubilation.
"It was a mixture of relief, excitement," he said. "Knowing there was that much time on the clock and they really couldn't come back from that. Knowing that we won it was something special. They didn't bother dropping the puck. We just all went nuts and piled on our goalie.
"You dream about those moments as a kid. You want to be that guy to score that big goal. Fortunately I had the lucky bounces enough to be that guy and it's something I'll never forget."
The goal was Horvat's league-high 16th of the playoffs (in 21 games) and propelled the Knights to the Memorial Cup for a second straight season. He had two goals and three assists as the Knights lost in the tournament semifinals. However, he said the experience of playing against elite players -- among them fellow top prospects Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks and Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads -- provided a good barometer for where his game is, and where it needs to be moving forward.
"It was obviously a great experience to see the other talents from around the [Canadian Hockey] League," Horvat said. "Drouin and MacKinnon and those other high-end players are special players and tough to play against. For me to have the opportunity to go out there and to play against them, I thought it was a really great experience. … [It] gave me a measuring stick to know where I think I should be and where I match up against those guys. Just keep pushing yourself to get even better."