30-Year-Old Center – Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyler Bozak Contract Information:
Bozak signed a five-year, $21 million contract to remain with Toronto in July of 2013.
Bozak, making his return from a 21-game absence due to a concussion, scored two goals -- one on the power play -- in Thursday's 6-5 overtime win against the Ducks.
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Tyler Bozak: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Bozak lost his buddy, Phil Kessel, over the summer. And heís likely to lose his Leafs jersey in a trade before the season is too old. But for now, heís likely to be Toronto's second-line center behind Nazem Kadri, and Bozak has a chance to resurrect his all-around game under the tutelage of new coach Mike Babcock. Heís always been miscast as a top-line center, so this new role will be better suited to his skills. Bozak needs to improve his own-zone play, and heíll need to adjust to new linemates Daniel Winnik and P.A. Parenteau. At this point, heís a sub-50-point player with a $4.2 million cap hit (through 2017-18). Thatís too rich for a rebuilding Leafs team, so look for them to ship him to a more competitive team. That means whatever value he delivers early is likely to decline as the season wears on.
When will Leaf fans accept Bozak as their top-line center? No, he doesn't fit the profile of a typical first-line stud pivot, but there are really only about 10 of those in the league. His detractors say he doesn't have the speed, talent or body type to be his team's best guy, but his career arc just continues to climb anyway. Last season, he delivered a career-best 49 points in 58 games -- that's 69 points prorated to a full season. He would have finished ahead of Ryan O'Reilly of the Avs at that rate. Then there's this intangible: linemate Phil Kessel plays his best hockey when his best friend, "Bozie", is on the ice with him. Here's a guy that many might choose to avoid, but you shouldn't. He's a 65-point guy if he stays healthy.
Bozak isn't a traditional first-line center, but that doesn't mean he isn't a valuable cog in the Leafs' machine. So far, he hasn't scored more than 47 points in a single season. But he logs heavy minutes, plays both special teams, takes every important face-off and has tremendous chemistry with linemate and roommate Phil Kessel. Sure, he's already 27, but he has just three-and-a-half years of NHL experience and could still turn into a Mikku Koivu type over the next couple years. Watch for him to near the 60-point plateau this season and deliver you solid power-play production.
The much-maligned Bozak is starting to become the Rodney Dangerfield of centers -- he just doesn't get the respect he's due. Sure, he has been miscast as a first-line center, but he has uncanny chemistry with Phil Kessel. The Leafs will experiment with James van Riemsdyk as Kessel's pivot and, if that's successful, Bozak will slip down to the third line. Sit on him at the draft until you know where he slots in -- it'll be the difference between maybe getting 40 points or almost definitely getting 60.
Miscast as a top-line center last season, Bozak finally gets to play the lower-line pivot role that better fits his skills and development needs. We like him as a third-liner this season but that will all depend on Matthew Lombardiís health. Still, with so many injury risks (Lombardi, Tim Connolly) at center ice, Bozak should see enough ice time to net close to 40 points. Just donít count on him for power-play points, PIMs or hits.
Bozak was a complete revelation in 2009-10. It's not that we didn't believe in his skills; it's just that, well, we didn't believe he'd ever really translate them so effectively (and so quickly) to the NHL. He works hard, is smart and tenacious, and can skate and pass like a strong, second-line center. But he's a borderline fantasy center, though -- 60-point passers really only have a place in extremely deep leagues.
Bozak was another hotly sought-after college free agent from the NCAA ranks this past season. Over 20 NHL teams, including all the Canadian squads, had expressed interest in signing the Saskatchewan native who scored eight goals and 15 assists in 19 games with the University of Denver last season. He projects as a solid, two-way center with speed and top-notch face-off skills. He's going to be overrated to Leaf fans -- draft and trade would be a great idea.