Atlanta pegged Zach Bogosian with the No. 3 pick in 2008 NHL Entry Draft. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
By Tom Ferda
ATLANTA – As a teen, Zach Bogosian dedicated his summers to taking long road trips across the Canadian border from his hometown in Massena, N.Y., to Ottawa in order to workout with personal trainer Lorne Goldenberg.
Bogosian made that trek a habit over three summers, sometimes hitting the road before dawn to make a scheduled skate time. There wasn’t much for hockey at home and training with Goldenberg, who also works with several NHL stars, provided the young stud defenseman with an intense regiment.
A born competitor, Bogosian’s strong work ethic and drive to make it to the NHL paid off when he was selected No. 3 overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
Bogosian comes from a family of competitive athletes with a football background. His father, Ike, was a safety and captain of the Syracuse University football team and his uncle, Steve, played defensive tackle at Army.
But Zach was too small to play football, so he enrolled at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., where he pursued hockey instead.
"That's when I began taking hockey seriously," said Bogosian.
At Cushing, Hall of Famer Ray Bourque was an assistant coach who took notice of, and helped guide, Bogosian. Realizing Bogosian’s potential, Bourque decided to put him on the ice against the opposition’s best, most experienced forwards.
"Bourque taught me to be deceptive with the puck in the offensive zone to throw the forwards off,” Bogosian said. “He also said to learn to play defense first, then the offense would come later."
Bogosian did just that. He worked tirelessly on his defensive game and sure enough the offensive skills naturally followed.
Bogosian made the jump to the Ontario League where he honed his skills with the Peterborough Petes. He tallied seven goals and 33 points in 2006-07 and nearly doubled his production the following season, netting 11 goals and 61 points, becoming the only defenseman in the league to lead his team in scoring.
While his defense is stalwart and his offense is impressive, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound blueliner is also a fierce battler who plays with a mean streak; he racked up 135 penalty minutes over two seasons of junior hockey.
Bogosian would like to pattern his game after fellow blueliner Chris Chelios.
"He's a warrior and a leader,” the Thrashers prospect said of Chelios. “He'll do anything it takes to win."
Bogosian has adopted a competitive spirit and will do anything necessary to crack the Thrashers’ lineup this season.
At last month's prospects camp, he dominated at both ends of the ice during the many scrimmages that took place. After the stellar performance against Atlanta’s best prospects, many Thrasher fans expect him to be in uniform on opening night and management is penciling him in.
Bogosian's all-around style is a perfect fit for new Thrashers coach John Anderson. Anderson wants his defensemen to be aggressive with the puck and loves the two-way style Bogosian brings to the rink.
"If there's a lane open, he can take it,” Anderson said. “It's up to the forward to drop back and cover.”
Although most prospects take a couple of years to develop before making an NHL roster, GM Don Waddell confirmed the Thrashers are giving Bogosian every chance to make the team in 2008.
The Thrashers are in desperate need of new blood and new leaders and Bogosian fits that bill perfectly.
Tom Ferda is a sports writer based in Atlanta covering the NHL Thrashers and is a contributor to THN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.