It took three months after Tim Bozon was hospitalized with bacterial meningitis that the Montreal Canadiens prospect found himself back on the ice. Within five months, he'll be lacing up the skates to play competitive hockey for the first time since March 3.
La Fédération Française de Hockey sur Glace, which oversees the French national teams, announced Friday afternoon that Bozon will indeed suit up for les Bleus for a midsummer tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic. While Bozon, who was most recently with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League, is Swiss-born, he competes for France nationally since he holds citizenship through his father.
The six-game, exhibition tournament Bozon and the French U23 squad will take part in merely features local teams from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, you have to imagine Bozon is chomping at the chance to get back on the ice, even if he won't be playing next to players like Sam Bennett and Jaedon Descheneau. NHL training camps are due to begin in just over a month and it's worth it for Bozon to get in some competitive game after having missed hockey throughout most of the spring due to his illness and recovery.
Per the French release, the return from Bozon doesn't come without the approval of Montreal Canadiens team doctors, as you'd hope. He announced his return to competition via his various social media outlets:
— tim bozon (@timbozon94) July 15, 2014
Bozon, a Habs pick from the 2012 NHL draft, is a 1994-born player, so he technically still has one more year of junior hockey eligibility. Typically, a player of Bozon's calibre would spend his 20-year-old season at the American Hockey League level, but Montreal have a loaded forward prospect system that's about to get stronger with Charles Hudon's graduation from junior as well as the potential addition of Sebastien Collberg. If Bozon is still rusty come September, will Montreal take the unorthodox route of sending him back to junior for another season, or keeping him at the professional level playing with the team's ECHL affiliate in Wheeling?
For now though, you have to think that Bozon will be looking at finding a bit of success in this quick tournament. France is sending a U23 squad whose names would be unfamiliar to Canadian hockey fans (though defenceman Vincent Llorca spent two seasons with Nepean on the Ontario Junior A circuit and is currently with Laurentian University). That means minutes and precious ice-time. By rights, given the severity of his illness in March, it's amazing that the plausibility Bozon will be 100 per cent by training camp exists. Kudos are due to the doctors at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon who brought Bozon to this next hurdle. Now we wait to see if the young French goal-scorer can step over it.