What do these two players have in common? Similar 2011-2012 regular season stats, that's what. Both had 18 goals and Voracek had 49 points versus Bozak's 47 points (Bozak played 5 fewer games).
With Voracek's signing of a 4 year, 17 million dollar contract today (see also Versteeg, Kris), it struck me how undervalued Tyler Bozak has become in Leafland. All the guy did last year was toss up respectable numbers, for which other players are getting rewarded handsomely of late. He also fit into the Lupul/Kessel forward line better than anyone else on the Leafs roster last year.
True, Bozak is not yet the elite #1 center that has been the angst of Leafs fans since the departure of Mats Sundin. He likely never will be The One. He's not Staal, nor Malkin either. But really, who can fit the unrealistic expectations of Leafs Nation? My point is this: doesn't Bozak still have potential for growth and is there any reason why he could not break out in 2012-2013, his contract year before becoming a UFA? Bear with me:
I think we too often malign a guy who is a diamond, or at least an emerald, in the rough. It would not be entirely unrealistic to expect Bozak to put up 25 goals and 45 assists this year (Bozie scored 11 goals in the last 16 games of the season. Do the math). Pointwise, this would place him among the top 10-12 centers in the league.
Size, you say? All I hear about among Leaf fans is we need a #1 center with "size". Consider the top centers in the NHL: at 5' 11" you have Giroux, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and let's not forget Crosby. Taller, and listed as 6'0" are Tavares, Eberle, Filppula, Brad Richards. Still taller yet is Tyler Bozak at 6' 1", which is the same height as Stamkos, Patrick Sharp, Seguin, Couture. True, Bozak is not the most physical guy, but few of the aforementioned players are.
What are we expecting, a center with freakish size and physicality along with elite puck skills? Perhaps awaiting the second coming of Eric Lindros (see youtube vid)? If that day ever comes, our Leafs better be dead last in the standings.
Tyler Bozak is just coming into his prime. Will he be the next Matt Stajan? Maybe. But there's still a possibility he will be closer to the next Patrick Sharp - a bona fide #2 center on any team, or a reasonable facsimile of a #1 center on the Leafs until they develop or trade for one who is truly elite. So while we wait for The One, let's give Mr. Bozak some props. One year from now we may be talking about a 4 year, $17-20mil contract for Bozak and we will be hoping, wishing it's in a Leaf uniform.