This is an exciting time for the Leafs. I can't remember the last time we had a promising young playmaking center who wore #42. No I didn't forget about Kyle Wellwood but I didn't include "pear shaped" in my description and an omission that glaring implies a certain intent.
Tyler Bozak arrived as a player this pre-season when he personally stomped on Dany Sabourin's NHL dreams and things were looking good for the rookie. He started the season slow in the AHL and missed time with an injury and a case of H1N1 which is rumored to have caused him to lose 15 pounds.
In his first sixteen games (small sample size warning) he's scored 3 goals and added 8 assists good for 11 points. Over an 82 game schedule that projects to 15 goals and 41 assists for
55 56 (sorry, typo) points. Not bad for a rookie, right? That projected total would put Bozak one point behind Olli Jokinen, Jiri Hudler and Jason Arnott for points by a center, though all of them score more goals than Bozak.
His projected production (which despite being a small sample saw Bozak start slowly and heat up as the Bozak - Phil Kessel - Alexei Ponikarovsky line got ridiculously hot) mirrors Scott Gomez's last year; sixteen goals and 42 assists for 58pts. His production would also place Bozak ahead of Matt Stajan meaning that bringing Bozak in let us ship out Stajan in return for Phaneuf without sacrificing production from our top line.
The thing is, very few centers ahead of Bozak's projected production last year are his age (23 as of this posting) or younger; Anze Kopitar, Jonathon Toews, and David Krejci is the whole list. This isn't to suggest Bozak is a Toews or a Kopitar because with sixteen NHL games under his belt he could have gotten hot early and may yet turn out to be a total bust. The worst case scenario is that we didn't even use a draft pick on him and nothing ventured nothing gained.
Yet with any luck (Leafs fan alert: we're not lucky) Bozak will trend upwards as the Leafs become a better team and he gains more experience. In his short career he's already scored two highlight reel goals as he dances around NHL competition - there are flashes of brilliance there and if Bozak can tap into that consistently he's going to be a gem. I know this isn't the most in depth statistical analysis; I don't want to get into any advanced statistics because of how few games he's played in the NHL but I think it's good to take a look at one of our prospects and say "he's doing a good job". Let's hope moving forward he's capable of doing a great job.