After signing college prospect, Christian Hanson, earlier this week, the Leafs have taken another step towards adding some much-needed youth on their roster by signing the University of Denver star, Tyler Boazak to an entry-level contract. The signing was a big coup for Brian Burke and the Leafs as has been reported that as many as 25 teams were vying for his services.
The Regina native is a very strong two-way centre who many in the hockey world believe has the skill set to become a top-6 forward. At 6”1, the right-handed shooting Bozak is considered to have more offensive upside than Hanson. While he missed most of this season with a knee injury, he did finish with 8 goals and 15 assists in 19 games. And, at 23 years old, he is considered to be NHL ready.
While Bozak and Hanson are certainly no guarantees to be NHL mainstays (just look at Robbie Earl), their signings represent a very important step for the Leafs. Burke is sending a clear message to the Leafs faithful; that they are truly committed to their youth movement. Next year’s Leafs squad will likely be one of the youngest rosters they have put together in years. It will include the likes of Schenn, Kulemin, Tlusty, Grabovski and Mitchell. As well, the Leafs are still in pursuit of soon-to-be college free agent Matt Gilroy, defencemen for the Boston University, who along with Hanson and Bozak, is considered to be the top college prospect. And let’s not forget that the Leafs have 3 picks in the top 50 in this year’s upcoming NHL Entry Draft, including a top-10 pick.
What is most important about these signings is that the people are clearly buying into the Leaf’s plan. There is no chance that Ferguson Jr. or even Fletcher could have landed either of these college stars. However, with Burke running the show for the foreseeable future and Ron Wilson behind the bench, the Leafs finally have stability in their organization which goes a long way in attracting free-agents and having the players buy into their system.
Whether Hanson and Bozak turn out to be more like Martin St. Louis instead of Robbie Earl remains to be seen. But, one thing is certain; Burke has a plan and these signings are just the beginning. It is going to one busy off-season in Leaf Land.