Bo Horvat hoping his 8-year commitment can change perception of Islanders as top-tier landing spot

Bo Horvat Islanders
FILE – New York Islanders’ Bo Horvat watches a replay during the third period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., April 17, 2023. There are a handful of big-name stars around the NHL who have been invisible or close to it in the first week of the playoffs. Horvat was held without a point in the Islanders’ series against Carolina before a goal in garbage time of Game 4 when the Hurricanes took a 3-1 lead. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File)

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Thanks to decades mired in dysfunction to go with a crumbling building that brought an uncertain future, the better part of the last 30 years never saw the New York Islanders regarded as a top-tier, long-term landing spot for big-name talent or free agents around the NHL.

That sentiment has softened in recent years thanks to the stability provided by Lou Lamoriello and former head coach Barry Trotz along with the opening of UBS Arena — now considered one of the finest venues in the league. Yet the Islanders have still had their fair share of missing out on marquee names whether it was retaining John Tavares or missing out on the likes of Johny Gaudreau or Nazem Kadri. 

Bo Horvat isn’t really sure why that’s happening.

“I don’t know why this place has gotten that reputation from a lot people,” Horvat said. “I think it’s such a hidden gem for many reasons: Living, family, the organization, the team, the facilities — I love it here and I’ve only been here for three months.”

The 28-year-old center was traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the Islanders in late January amidst a career season in hopes of providing Lamoriello’s side with an offensive punch that was so desperately needed. Within minutes of his first practice beginning, it was announced that he inked an eight-year extension to hitch his wagon to the Islanders for the long-haul.

Immediately paired with star playmaker Mathew Barzal, it looked as though the two were well on their way until Barzal went down with a lower-body injury that forced him out of the final 24 games of the regular season. 

He scored just seven goals in 30 games with the Islanders after posting 31 in 49 with the Canucks before being held to just one goal alongside Barzal in their first-round playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I hold myself to a high standard and hold myself accountable and expect a lot out of myself,” Horvat said. “When the goals dry up, it was frustrating, but it’s just something that I think is going to make me better in the long run.”

Bo Horvat Islanders
New York Islanders’ Bo Horvat celebrates after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

With an opportunity to settle down and spend the summer adapting to his new home — he’s in the process of having a house built for his family nearby — he’ll hope to take the next step in New York. 

“Getting ourselves comfortable is a big priority of ours because of the instability of last year,” he said. “It weighed on us, but looking forward to starting next year already.”

Horvat is expected to continue building his partnership with Barzal as a bona fide top-line duo — but another scoring winger certainly wouldn’t hurt to round out what would become one of the more imposing lines in hockey. Hence the center’s confusion as to why the Islanders have struck out in recent history on the free-agent market.

“Just the way it’s run, it’s first-class,” Horvat said. “From top-to-bottom, everybody is taking care of you from Lou and ownership. The resources, the access to everything, it’s a world-class organization and I’m proud to be part of it… so I’m looking forward to spending another eight years here.”

Islanders Kraken Bo Horvat
New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates with teammates Sebastian Aho (25) and Mathew Barzal (13) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Seattle Kraken Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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