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Tyler Bozak Reaches Significant Career Milestone

The veteran center’s road to 800 games was full of obstacles, making the milestone even more special

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Seattle Kraken Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

On January 27th, against the Calgary Flames, Tyler Bozak laced up his skates for the 800th time in his NHL career. He became just the 85th active NHL player to do so. The road to an NHL career wasn’t easy for the native of Regina, Saskatchewan, as he was unable to crack any rosters in the Western Hockey League so he had to settle for playing in the lower tier British Columbia Hockey League. He would spend three seasons with the Victoria franchise and in his third year, he had a breakout year as he recorded 128 points (45 goals and 83 assists.) earning him the Brett Hull Trophy as the BCHL’s top scorer.

In December of 2006, Tyler signed a letter of intent to play hockey for the University of Denver and joined the Pioneers for the ‘07-’08 season. He played all 41 games of his freshman season while leading the team in scoring with 34 points. He was also second in the country with five shorthanded goals, was named the Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the week four times, received the WCHA Hockey Commissioner’s Association Rookie of the month in December and after the season, was named to the All-WCHA third team and All-Rookie team.

As Bozakheaded into his sophomore season with Denver, he was named to the College Hockey News Preseason All-America team but his season would be derailed by a torn meniscus suffered in early December that would cause him to miss over half of his sophomore season. Despite this, he would still be named to the WCHA’s All-Academic team at the end of the season.

Following his sophomore season, Bozak was a highly sought-after free agent despite going undrafted and on April 3rd, 2009, he signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After signing the contract, he didn’t immediately join the team as he chose to take the remainder of the ‘08-’09 season off to further rehabilitate his knee.

He attended the Maple Leafs training camp in ‘09-’10 but due to salary cap constraints Bozak was assigned to the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate. On October 13th, 2009, he got the call and made his NHL debut the same night against the Colorado Avalanche. He recorded his first NHL point in the form of an assist on a goal by François Beauchemin.

After that game, he was returned to the Marlies before being recalled again in early January 2010. Two days after his second call-up, on January 14th, Bozak scored his first NHL goal against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Almost one year later, on January 1st, 2011, he had his first career two-goal game in a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.

In the offseason, Bozak signed a two-year contract extension to stay with the Leafs. Then on July 5th, 2013, he signed a five-year, $21 million extension.

As the ‘14-’15 season came to a conclusion, Bozak recorded his first career hat trick and added an assist to cap off a four-point night. He finished the season with a career-high 23 goals and tied his career-high in points with 49.

After the Maple Leafs traded away Phil Kessel during the 2015 offseason, many Maple Leafs fans said that Bozak’s offensive production would decline significantly in his absence, with some even saying Bozak’s point totals would resemble bottom-line players. He proved them wrong by having some of the best seasons of his career and remaining in a top two line role for the Maple Leafs. At the Christmas break of the ‘15-’16 season, Bozak had more points and better analytical stats than Kessel.

The following season (‘16-’17) he had a career-high 55 points playing on a line with James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner.

He would play one more season with the Maple Leafs before after nine seasons, he left as a free agent and signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Blues on July 1st, 2018.

In his first season as a Blue, Bozak recorded 38 points in 72 games played. The next season, he became a pivotal part of the Blues’ run to the Stanley Cup as he, along with Alexander Steen, provided veteran leadership to the Blues young core.

After playing out his initial contract, he signed a one-year, $750,000 contract to remain with the Blues.

While he likely doesn’t have many more years left in his career, Bozak has certainly exceeded the expectations of many people after overcoming several factors that could have ended his professional career before it ever began and on January 27th, did something that only 84 other players currently in the league have done.