Flying Frenchman lifts off
Tim Bozon speaks the language of love and the Frenchman’s union with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers has been nothing short of amorous.
Yes, that’s right, he’s French, not Swiss — “Everyone says I’m Swiss, but that’s wrong,” Bozon told KTW — and there’s been nothing neutral about his play this season.
The 6-foot-1, 178-pound left-winger has shifted into high gear playing on a line with centre Colin Smith and right winger JC Lipon.
That trio has combined for 173 points, 73 of them goals.
Bozon, with 27 goals and 56 points, has drawn the attention of many an NHL scout.
Things, though, could have been very different for the 17-year-old, whose family calls Lugano, Switzerland, home.
Bozon’s first choice was to play in the Ontario Hockey League, and the talented winger’s agent, Rollie Thompson, did his due diligence trying to make that happen.
But, it was Blazers’ general manager Craig Bonner who trusted Thompson’s appraisal of the playmaking winger and Kamloops drafted Bozon 27th overall at the 2011 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.
“I saw that last year they were last in the standings,” said Bozon, who is shacked up with Blazer forward Dylan Willick’s family, which moved to Kamloops from Prince George last summer.
“I said, ‘Oh, maybe it’s not a big team to play for, but it’s still good for me to play in the CHL.’”
The Blazers have done a 180-degree turn since the end of the 2010-2011 campaign.
Kamloops occupies first place in the Western Hockey League entering tonight’s home game against Edmonton.
They have indeed become a “big team” for which to play.
Bozon, a huge reason for the turnaround in the Tournament Capital, was ranked 39th in the mid-term NHL Central Scouting rankings, which were released in January.
“For a guy like me who came here and nobody knew about me, a French guy, it’s not that bad,” Bozon said.
“But, for me, it’s not good enough.”
Good enough would be classified as a first-round draft pick, said Bozon, whose father, Philippe, played with the St. Louis Blues in the first half of the 1990s.
The gifted winger — who showed off his hands with a gravity-defying puck-waving shootout attempt at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Skills Competition in Kelowna earlier this month (watch it online here) — has been approached by the Chicago Blackhawks and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“They are the most interested,” Bozon said of the Blackhawks, whose amateur scout, Darrell May, has been keeping tabs on Bozon.
“They said I’m the style of player that they want to have in their team.”
The Blackhawks, should they escape their current slump and play anything like last year’s rendition of the squad, might wind up with a late first-round pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, scheduled for June 22 and June 23 in Pittsburgh, but Bozon has plenty to take care of in Kamloops before then.
Getting through winter, for one, will be a challenge, judging by Bozon’s remarks: “When I came here, everyone told me that it’s a really nice place. That’s true for summer, but I have some problems with Kamloops in winter.”
On a more serious note, the Blazers are being pegged as Memorial Cup contenders.
A trip to Shawinigan, Que., for the national championship in May would give Bozon a grand stage on which to weave his magic.
“Everyone is starting to talk about the Memorial Cup,” Bozon said.
Blazer bench boss Guy Charron might cringe at the thought of his players thinking that far ahead, but it must be tough to take it one game at a time when one eye is fixated on the big picture.
“Maybe it’s too early,” he said, “but why not have a dream?”
MORE ON BOZON
• Bozon, who was born in St. Louis during his father’s tenure with the Blues, speaks four languages — English, French, German and Italian.
He and teammate Marek Hrbas, a defenceman from the Czech Republic, are battling for supremacy when it comes to the English language.
“I think it’s mine that’s better but, if you ask him, he would probably say his is better,” Bozon said.
• The left winger has United States and French passports.
• He chose two years ago to play for the French national team, like his father and grandfather before him.
“I had the choice to play for France two years ago (at the Division 1 Under-18 World Junior Hockey Championship) or wait two years for a Swiss passport,” Bozon said.
“I think I was not patient. I could play for Swiss now.”
• He can still make the switch, but it would be a long process.
“I would have to wait three years and not play for France [during that time] to switch teams.”
• Bozon’s team-first attitude was on display at the Top Prospects game in Kelowna on Feb. 1.
As recounted by KTW freelance photographer Allen Douglas: “I happened to be passing the dressing room door after I left the post-game press conference a little early as it was winding down and Tim came out of the dressing room just as I passed.
“In past encounters, we would chat about his performance or how the game had gone. This time, he came up to me with great excitement and announced, ‘We won!’ — which surprised me, because his Team Cherry didn’t win.
“Tim then showed me his cellphone. He had tapped into the Blazer game results back home [Kamloops defeated Spokane 4-1 on the same night the Top Prospects contest was held] and the Blazer game and his teammates were the most important things on his mind — not the scouts, not the media frenzy he created at the competition, just his team, his teammates and the win.”