Friday, March 7, 2014

Leafs Fans Get Their #1

AbelImages/Getty Images
Justin Smith

There has been few 19-year-old NHL players I've seen that can stand in front of the media after practice and defend one of his teammates.

After Randy Carlyle and the Leafs finished their practice Friday morning Morgan Reilly expressed his feelings toward Tyler Bozaks critics.

 “I personally think he’s one of the top players in the league. I think he’s really had a chance to prove that this year. So I think all the chirps he gets about not being this or not being that are all stupid. I think he’s one of the best players out there,” said Reilly. (From Michael Traikos of the National Post)

Since Bozak came back from injury in late December, his line with James vanReimsdyk and Phil Kessel has arguably been the hottest trio in the NHL. With only 40 games under his belt, Bozak is at nearly a point-per game pace with 37 points. He has 12 points in his last 10 games and scored the winning goal on Wednesday night against the Rangers who are chasing the Leafs in the East.

The criticsm of Bozak is that the only reason he is producing at such a torrid pace this season is because he is centring two star forwards. Many of his critics are of the belief that if he was replaced by a legitimate number one centre, his line-mates would play better.

The fact of the matter is Tyler Bozak is in the top 15 of producing centre-iceman in the NHL. He comes up just behind Crosby and Getzlaf in points produced this season.

Is it time we start considering Bozak as a legitimate first line centre? Has he done enough to impress Leafs fans since Brian Burke signed him as a college free agent?

The one point I keep coming back to is that Kessel is on pace to score 40 goals this season with Bozak as his centre-iceman for the majority of the year. Wasn't that what we kept saying was the bench-mark for what a true number one centre was on this team? Get Kessel his 40 goals and now the Leafs have their centre. I remember a couple of years ago that was all that people kept saying. Even last summer before Bozak re-signed with the Leafs many fans were against him returning because the thought was still out there that he was not like a Ryan Kesler.

A point-per game pace for my first line centre is good enough for me.