VANCOUVER – Bo Horvat didn’t know whether he was going to play, but he still made the most of his chance.
Horvat, Vancouver’s first draft choice this year (ninth overall) recorded two assists for his first points of the NHL pre-season Monday night as the Canucks beat the Phoenix Coyotes 6-1.
He got into the lineup as a result of suspensions to wingers Zack Kassian and Dale Weise.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or if I was going to get in, but I’m glad I did,” he said.
Horvat, who is trying to make a case for himself as a third or fourth-line centre, assisted on Vancouver’s final two goals in the third period and finished plus-two on the night.
The 18-year-old and fellow top 2013 draft pick Hunter Shinkaruk (24th overall) set up Mike Santorelli’s second goal in two consecutive games by putting the puck on the net before the veteran backhanded home a rebound. Then Horvat set up Tom Sestito to close out the scoring.
“You definitely feel more comfortable with every single game, and you build up confidence to play … and make more plays,” said Horvat. “I’m kind of getting used to (the NHL level) now.”
In addition to supplying points, he won 8-of-10 draws. Such results will help him as he tries to stick in the NHL instead of going back to his London Knights junior squad in the Ontario Hockey League.
“I felt that things were going my way a little bit more in the face-off dot,” he said. “I got my timing right and I tried to figure guys out.”
Demanding Canucks coach John Tortorella liked what he saw of Horvat—at times.
“He played well in the second half of the game,” said Tortorella. “He has a lot to learn about the game and momentums of games, as he should. But you can see what’s there.”
Yannick Weber and Jannik Hanson both scored a goal and added an assist as the Canucks posted their first pre-season win in four outings.
Hansen’s first-period power-play goal, which put the Canucks up 2-0, proved to be the winner. Weber, who turned 25 on Monday, put the Canucks ahead 3-1 with a slapshot from the point at the 11-minute mark of the second period.
The Morges, Switzerland native, who signed as a free agent in July after five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens organization, now has four points in three exhibition games. Known for offensive prowess with the Habs before they let him go, he was glad to contribute as the Canucks, featuring mostly veterans, controlled play throughout the game.
“I think we have a good group (of young right-handed defencemen) that’s fighting for spots,” said Weber. “For me, it’s just important to play my game and show them what I can do, especially after last season.”
Tortorella liked what he saw of the rearguard.
“Webs has had his ups and downs, played better tonight,” said Tortorella. “I think Webs being surrounded a little bit more with National Hockey Leaguers has helped him tonight. I thought he played well.”
Tortorella was also impressed with Santorelli, a 27-year-old Vancouver native who is trying to crack the Canucks lineup after splitting last season with Florida and Winnipeg.
“Santorelli’s played well from day one,” said Tortorella. “He’s making a pretty good case for himself.”
Chris Higgins and Jason Garrison also scored for the Canucks.
Martin Hanzal replied for the Coyotes.
Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo picked up his first win of the pre-season as he played the full 60 minutes, recording 21 saves while rarely tested. Luongo saw his first action since allowing four goals in the first 12:24 in a 4-1 home loss to Edmonton last week.
“I felt good,” said Luongo. “Like I said before camp even started, I’m not worried about results right now. It’s more of a process.”
Notes: Kassian was suspended Monday for the rest of the pre-season and the first five games of the regular season for a high-sticking incident against Edmonton centre Sam Gagner on Saturday. Gagner suffered a broken jaw on the play and is out indefinitely. … Fellow Canuck winger Weise was suspended for the rest of the pre-season for a hit to the head on Taylor Hallin the same game. … Canucks 2012 top pick Brendan Gaunce also got into the game because of the suspensions. … Phoenix captain Shane Doan and centre Mike Ribeiro were among Coyote regulars who sat out. … Vancouver’s Daniel and Henrik Sedin were used as penalty-killers. … Former Vancouver Giants star Gilbert Brule is getting a chance at a second stint with the Coyotes. Brule, the sixth overall pick by Columbus in 2006, is on a professional tryout with Phoenix, where he spent 33 games in the 2011-12 season following a trade from Edmonton. He toiled in Switzerland for 14 games last season. … Vancouver’s David Booth remained sidelined with a groin injury that he suffered Saturday in the morning skate prior to the game against Edmonton. Booth was slated to make his return in that game from an ankle injury that had kept him out since March. But the groin injury kept him off the ice.