For as poor as the Toronto Maple Leafs' season has been this year, there sure is a lot of positive talk swirling around Leaf Nation lately. With the team significantly younger, looser, and playing like they've got nothing to lose (because they don't), the team has not only been winning on a regular basis, but has turned into a very exciting team to watch.
One of the prime reasons for that transformation is because of a 24-year-old rookie from Regina, Saskatchewan, who has stepped into the spotlight and shined more than anyone could have imagined.
Sure, Tyler Bozak had potential, which is why Brian Burke quickly signed him straight out of the University of Denver at the end of last season, but to be as good as he has been this quickly; not many could have seen that coming.
He had a brief one-game stint with the club in October where he picked up his first career assist against the Colorado Avalanche, but it's his second time up with the Leafs that has people already penciling him in on the roster for next season.
Bozak was called up from the Toronto Marlies on Jan. 12 and from that point on he hasn't looked back. In the 33 games since that time he's registered eight goals and 25 points.
Those numbers are impressive enough on their own, but when comparing them to the other rookies' stats in the league, that's when you start to understand why people are so excited about this kid's future.
Since returning to the Leafs for good, Bozak has the most points of any rookie in the league.
Yes, that means more than Matt Duchene or John Tavares, both viable Calder Trophy candidates, and you've got to think that if given the full season he would be in the running for the rookie scoring race.
And quite possibly could have been booking a trip to the NHL awards.
Because he was put at center on the top line early on, which meant playing alongside a certified sniper in Phil Kessel, many people were still skeptical of his future and whether he was simply benefitting from his time with such a great player.
But he's shot down all criticism since being moved off the top line with Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin and moved to the middle of what is now called "The Frat Pack", a line that has Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson on either of his wings.
The trio of former college players has blossomed together in just a short time, and for Bozak it's been the change he’s needed to prove that whomever he plays with, he can make a difference.
In his last four games he's recorded a goal and three assists, while Stalberg has three goals in his last three games with Bozak dishing him the puck. Hanson has yet to score this season but has looked to be playing much better with his fellow 24-year-old friends.
The point is that Bozak has looked great no matter who he's played with this season. His vision is exceptional and he's shown a passing ability that's among the best on the team.
With an offseason to improve his skills and speed, and add a few pounds to his 6'1", 195-pound frame, Bozak should come into next season fully prepared for the rigors of an NHL season.
And if this season has been any indication of the future he has with the club, it's going to be good to be Tyler Bozak for a long time in Toronto.
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