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Looking back at Tim Bozon’s time in the Montreal Canadiens organization

The recently traded forward never found his stride in the professional ranks.

St. John’s IceCaps/Colin Peddle

On Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens traded forward Tim Bozon to the Florida Panthers for defenceman Jonathan Racine, ending his short but eventful stay in the organization.

When the team drafted the American-born French player in the third round of the 2012 entry draft (64th overall), they picked a player who was a dominant offensive force for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League in his first season in North America, scoring 36 goals and putting up 71 points in 71 games. The following season Bozon bested this mark putting up 91 points.

He signed his entry-level deal with the Canadiens in May of 2013.

In October of that year, at the start of his third season of junior hockey, he was the centrepiece of a blockbuster deal with the Kootenay Ice, and continued putting up points — at a pace of 1.24 points per game — with his new team.

Fifty games into the season, in March of 2014, reports came out that Bozon was suffering from bacterial meningitis; a condition so severe that it required him to be placed in an artificial coma. A return to hockey seemed unlikely, and probably the least of his concerns while his very life hung in the balance.

Thankfully, he beat the disease, and by September he was back on the ice with Kootenay for his fourth, and final, season of CHL hockey as an over-ager. Questions about whether his fight with the disease affected his ability to play hockey were quickly answered when he returned to his usual pace of scoring at more than a point per game. It appeared as though there were no lingering effects from his very serious ailment. He played his first professional game at the end of the 2014-15 season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League.

Expectations were high for Bozon heading into his first full pro season last year, in the second of his three-year deal with the organization. Given his offensive track record, many considered him to be highl on the list of call-ups to the Canadiens that season once reinforcements were required.

Whether that would have come to pass or not is unknown, because the season took a massive turn for the worst during the second of three AHL pre-season games. He was cross-checked into the boards, and landed awkwardly on his left shoulder. As a result he missed the first 14 games of the AHL season.

Once his convalescence was completed, he found himself without a spot in the IceCaps lineup, and rather than be a healthy scratch it was decided to send him to the Brampton Beast of the East Coast Hockey League so that he could focus on working on his defensive game to become more of a complete player.

In Brampton, he played four games, earning one assist and showing a goal differential of -3. The lack of production could perhaps have been explained away by saying that he was getting back into game shape and that he was focusing on defensive responsibilities.

He was recalled back to the IceCaps at the end of November, and played 10 out of their next 11 games, starting on the left wing of the second line, and by the end finding himself on the fourth. During this stretch he scored no goals, put up an assist, and was a +2.

He played two more games with the Beast during his second stint in the ECHL, earning only one assist and going -2. Back in the AHL he was a healthy scratch for the next five IceCaps games, and was sent down to the Beast seemingly for good in mid-January.

In his third ECHL stint, Bozon appeared to have a watershed moment, scoring three goals and four assists over nine games. He probably would have benefited greatly from just staying in the ECHL for the rest of the season, but due to a rash of injuries that struck the NHL and AHL squads he was recalled to St. John’s for the third time to play out the rest of the season.

In the next 31 games for the IceCaps he scored five goals, put up two assists, and presented a terrible -14 goal differential when presented with more responsibilities, playing up and down the lines.

It was unquestionably a rough rookie season, but he came out of it content that he showed improvement, and was left with a positive message at his exit interview with Sylvain Lefebvre and Martin Lapointe.

Bozon travelled to Russia in May, where he joined the French National Team for the IIHF World Championship. An injury to his left shoulder in the fourth game of the tournament hurt his progression. He only missed one game, but it was enough to derail him once again. In six games he put up no points.

Instead of attending the Canadiens’ development camp in July, Bozon focused his efforts on training with the French National Team, who were preparing themselves for an Olympic qualification tournament in September against Italy, Kazakhstan, and Norway.

Unfortunately, he struggled to get any traction there, frequently finding himself as a healthy scratch for the French side in international friendlies. In early August he trained for a while with the Bordeaux Boxers who are coached by his father: former NHLer Philippe Bozon. By the end of the month he was cut by the French National Team ahead of the Olympic qualification tournament.

When the roster for the Habs’ Rookie Camp was announced in September, Bozon’s name was curiously missing, although it may been a case of the Canadiens giving him a chance to rest after a busy summer of action.

At the main Canadiens training camp, Bozon was assigned to “Team C”: a group consisting of Beast players, tryouts, as well as a couple of other players with a questionable future with the organization, including Dalton Thrower and Connor Crisp.

Bozon did not participate in a single scrimmage or pre-season game with the Canadiens and was assigned to the Icecaps before he saw any game action.

One has to wonder if Bozon even stood a chance sticking with the AHL team. With players like Stefan Matteau, Markus Eisenschmid, Bobby Farnham, and Jeremy Grégoire all playing left wing, depth issues would have probably pushed him back to the ECHL this season.

His father had stated that the ECHL was “not the best place to develop.” In an interview with Italian paper Ticinonline, Bozon stated that his agent had already spoken to a few Swiss teams, and although he is currently committed to playing in the AHL (now with the Springfield Thunderbirds), he would consider moving to the NLA if he felt it would bring him a step closer to playing in the NHL.

The Canadiens were likely on the verge of losing Bozon for nothing in the final year of his contract if he made the decision to head back to Europe. Instead they traded him for a roughneck defenceman who will add some mustard to the IceCaps lineup, something they have spent most of the pre-season clearly searching for by adding Bobby Farnham as well as giving tryouts to David Broll and Mathieu Corderre-Gagnon.

Bozon has received another lease on life for his professional career. Hopefully he can seize the opportunity.