Yes, over the years the fancy stats crowd has been vocal about their belief that Tyler Bozak should not be playing the minutes he does on the line that he does. Yes, others have argued that Bozak is in fact a first line center. We’ve been through this before. Well, Bozak is off to another strong start this season with 22 points in 23 games played. Is it time to finally admit he really is a first line center?
- Bozak has 22 points in 23 games this season and had 49 in 58 last season. That’s good for 71 in his last 81 games played, which I’d say is first line production.
- His 7.78 on-ice shooting percentage is the second-lowest of his career. In fact, he has an on-ice shooting percentage over 10 in three of his six seasons. That’s good because it suggests his on-ice shooting percentage might be due to start trending upwards.
- One of the biggest criticisms of Bozak over the last few years has been his Points/60 at even strength. Unfortunately, that argument is only stronger this season. The 1.33 P/60 he is averaging right now is the second-lowest of his career and well below the 2.33 he averaged last season.
- In the two seasons where he played more than 70 games his on-ice shooting percentage was 6.72 and 9.19, so over a full season maybe Bozak’s current on-ice shooting percentage can’t be expected to change all that much.
- His shooting percentage this season this season is 20.4. His shooting percentage over the previous two seasons is 20.5, so he’s right on par with that production. However, he only played 46 and 58 games in those two seasons respectively. In seasons where he played over 70 games, his shooting percentage is 14.4. So over a full season, his shooting percentage will likely drop.
- His puck possession numbers haven’t gotten any better. He’s still a negative Relative Fenwick player.
- The two numbers that might determine who he is as a player the most might be his shot-rate and his P/60 on the powerplay. The 2.35 shots-per-game he is
averaging right now is well above the second-highest of his career (1.55
per game last season). Now, this number is well above his career
average of 1.52 so this number may be due for regression, but thus far
he hasn’t showed any sign of slowing down. If he can keep it going that’s a huge plus, but if he regresses that’s a bad thing.
- As for his P/60 while on the powerplay, Bozak’s 7.27 is a massive 3.61 points better than the second-highest total of his career. That said, 21 players last season had a P/60 on the powerplay of 6.00 or higher. So it’s possible Bozak might not regress too hard in this area.
I’m a pretty strong believer in a player regressing towards their own career-average numbers over the course of a full season. The weird thing for Bozak is that this year he has some numbers well above his career average, while he has others well below. For Bozak, regression would mean his shot totals, shooting percentage, and powerplay P/60 going down, but his even strength P/60 going up. So, he’d be less productive in some areas but better in others. Given that he’s bound for regression in more areas he’s due for improvement, I still don’t see his current production is sustainable. However, he’s probably going to crack 50 points for the first time in his career this season. Couple that with the fact that he’s averaging two minutes less a game this season than the last, I think he should be considered a second line center right now until proven otherwise. That’s more than most could say about him since he’s been in the league.
In any event, he’s putting up numbers that are both well north and well south of his career averages. It’s going to be interesting to see if and how some of these numbers change over the season. Bozak has been such a fascinating case study for people interested in advanced stats, and that narrative should only continue this season.