The St. John’s IceCaps, Montreal’s new AHL affiliate, have a multitude of rookies joining the team this coming season. Among those is 21 year old Tim Bozon. What type of expectations should the team place on him in 2015-16?
Bozon is entering the second year of his entry level contract but has just one career AHL game under his belt, that coming in Hamilton’s final game last season. Having spent last year as an overager in the WHL, he will be one of the older rookies for the IceCaps.
Of course, the reason he played his final year of eligibility in junior is well documented. The Habs decided to send him back last year instead of spending the full season at the pro level. This allowed Bozon to return to form at a much more relaxed pace instead of throwing him against bigger and stronger pros while he was still getting into playing shape. There aren’t many times where having a player spend the first year of his rookie deal in junior makes sense but this was certainly one of them.
He responded by leading Kootenay in goals with 35, just one shy of his career high set in both 2011-12 and 2012-13 with Kamloops. He also finished fourth on the team in points during the season and tied for third in postseason scoring while logging the third highest ice time amongst forwards.
It’s Bozon’s goal scoring abilities that make him a big wildcard for the IceCaps heading into the season. The team has lost four of its top eight point getters from last year while their next highest scorer, Christian Thomas, may not make it back to the team as he has to first pass through waivers. (Their third highest scorer last year, Gabriel Dumont, also needs waivers but having cleared in the past, his future isn’t as much in doubt.) Suffice it to say, there are going to be quite a few opportunities for rookies to step in and make an impact.
Goal scoring has been a significant concern for Montreal’s top affiliate in recent years. Last year, Hamilton finished 23rd in goals; in 2013-14, they were tied for 28th while the season before that, they were dead last. While there are quite a few newcomers capable of producing, Bozon’s goal producing prowess amongst those players may only be rivalled by Nikita Scherbak, who will be one of the youngest players in the entire AHL when the season starts and may not be ready to play a top role immediately as a result.
Accordingly, the team is going to be counting on Bozon to shoulder a sizable chunk of the scoring load before too long. Fortunately for him and the IceCaps, some rookies haven’t had too much trouble adapting to the pro game in the last couple of seasons.
Charles Hudon led the Bulldogs in scoring for most of last season (before being passed down the stretch) while Daniel Carr led the league in freshman tallies. The prior year saw Sven Andrighetto finish second on the team in scoring. There are certainly recent precedents that suggest Bozon could come in and produce right away.
From a depth chart perspective, there are openings on the left wing. Carr will return and should be the top line winger. In terms of players guaranteed to be available to St. John’s when the season starts, Bozon’s probably next in line. Thomas (who played his off-wing at times last year) or Michael Bournival (another player who needs waivers that could clear) could factor into the equation late in training camp but as things stand, Bozon should be in line for a top six role to start. That should give him some time with the man advantage as well.
It’s still the offseason but things appear to be aligning well for Bozon to be an impact player for the IceCaps out of the gate. 15-20 goals certainly doesn’t appear to be out of the realm of possibility which would be a solid rookie campaign while giving the team two quality weapons on the left wing which would be huge for them. He’s certainly going to be one to keep an eye on when the puck drops on the regular season less than two months from now.