|Depth Chart Location:||Second line center|
|Contract Status:||- Two more seasons at $4.2 million AAV
- Becomes UFA on July 1, 2018
Acquired as a college free agent in April of 2009, Tyler Bozak has faced constant scrutiny since arriving in Toronto. He served as the Leafs’ de facto first-line centerman over the course of five-plus seasons under three different head coaches, primarily playing with top-line wingers Joffrey Lupul (at the time), Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. A coveted right-shot centerman, the 6’1 30-year-old is still with the team despite non-stop trade rumours while serving as a whipping boy for many fans due to his poor possession metrics and joined-at-the hip linemate relationship with Phil Kessel — specifically under former head coach Randy Carlyle.
Bozak is another player, like James van Riemsdyk, who had a rebound season under head coach Mike Babcock in 2015-16. Freed up from heavy usage involving far too many minutes against top competition, Bozak, now with an ‘A’ on his jersey for the first time in his career, settled in as a dependable center for the Leafs.
Bozak saw his icetime of ~19:00-20:00 cut to 17:20, and his possession metrics, like van Riemsdyk, went from a terrible – 46.3 CF% to a very good – 52.5%. Bozak, again like van Riemsdyk, saw his season cut short by injury at the 57-game mark and finished the season with 12 goals and 23 assists. Projecting his goals and assists over a full year would have produced a 17-goal output to go along 33 assists — good for 50 points. His previous career 16.3% shooting percentage dipped to a career worst 12.1% last season — likely due to less production off the rush and more of the hard-earned variety of offence.
Bozak’s 12.1% shooting percentage in 2015-16 is likely to be more in the neighbourhood of what we can expect next season with more high-volume shooting under Babcock’s system instead of the quick-strike offence often seen under Carlyle.
Bozak should be able to provide some support for the rookie centers on the roster — Auston Matthews, and, to a lesser degree, William Nylander — by taking defensive draws and lining up against other teams’ second lines. That should free up Matthews to play against third and fourth lines — especially at home with last change.
Injuries are starting to be something of a concern with Bozak; after his 2012-13 playoff campaign was curtailed due to injury, his 2013-14 campaign, like his 2015-16 season, was cut short to 58 games. He played a full season in 2014-15, but he was hurt in training camp and missed most of pre-season.
A healthy Bozak should finally give the Maple Leafs respectable center depth, albeit it’s a group that is a little wet behind the ears. It’s as good of a group as Toronto has had down the middle since they qualified for the playoffs in 2012-13 with Bozak, Mikhail Grabovski, Nazem Kadri and Jay McClement (and, later in the playoffs, Joe Colborne) at center. If he does end up injured – which, given his history, is a possibility — this could provide opportunity later in the year for Matthews to play in the second line spot and allow Nylander to ply his trade as the 3C.
What is unknown is how significant Bozak’s powerplay opportunity will be. Last season, with players such as van Riemsdyk, Kadri and P.A. Parenteau as powerplay locks, there weren’t a tonne of options available to powerplay coach Jim Hiller. This upcoming season is a different story — there will be a lot more competition, with Nylander (specifically as a righthanded center option who is able to run a powerplay from the right half-wall), Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nikita Zaitsev on the point (who has a great shot) providing man-advantage options. This could spell the end of Bozak’s tour of duty on the first powerplay unit. Veteran savvy is important, however, and it will be interesting to see how young of a unit Babcock and Hiller will choose to roll out on their first powerplay and how that might affect Bozak’s point production.
Bozak’s aging, coupled with potentially far less PP1 time, could forecast a dip from his three-year average of 49 points a season (with 2015-16 prorated). There’s also a fair argument to be made that this is likely Bozak’s final season with the Leafs. He’s a veteran presence with solid career numbers who can bridge the gap for another season still, but he will be 31 by season’s end and the Leafs now have a couple of talented NHL-ready young centers developing on the roster.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected 2016-17 Depth Chart
This chart will update as we slot each player on the depth chart following the publishing of each player preview.
|J. van Riemsdyk||1C||Leo Komarov|
Tyler Bozak Career Boxcar Statistics
Tyler Bozak Career Enhanced Statistics
Tyler Bozak HERO Chart