Members of the media say he’s as close to a sure thing as you can get. NHL scouts salivate as they watch him play and wish their team selected him in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Even the director of the NHL’s Central Scouting Service calls him a “franchise player,” ready to jump into the elite league of hockey “very quickly.”
Now, all that’s left for Zach Bogosian is to live up to the hype.
Bogosian, the first American off the board when selected by the Atlanta Thrashers with the third overall pick, has quickly become one of the top young players to watch this season.
The 18-year-old Massena, N.Y., native signed a multi-year contract with the Thrashers at the beginning of September, and team officials were comfortable placing him in the lineup before his season was scuttled by a broken leg early on.
“They’ve pretty much said that the opportunity is there, I just have to go out and capture it,” says Bogosian, who made his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 10.
“It was a relief to sign the contract, but now I have to go out there, work hard, and earn the money. I am just going to keep on working hard and take it as it comes.”
If Bogosian continues his recent high-caliber play, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Last year, Bogosian had an impressive second season with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound blueliner was the only OHL defenseman to lead his team in scoring with 61 regular-season points (11-50), and his performance was recognized with numerous accolades.
Bogosian’s offensive output for Peterborough last season, combined with his ability to stop opposing teams’ top scorers, garnered him a spot at 2008 USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"He’s physically very gifted ..."
- Jim Johannson
While he tallied two assists in four games against teams with some of the best players under the age of 20 from Finland and Sweden, it was his physicality and effort that were most impressive.
“He’s physically very gifted and skates extremely well,” says Jim Johannson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director, Hockey Operations.
“From what I saw in Lake Placid, he seems to be physically ready to play right now at the highest level. The key will be for him to develop more consistency in his game, which hopefully he’ll have an opportunity to do in Atlanta.”
If his work ethic is any indication, that shouldn’t be a problem.
“I am from a pretty hard working family, so I am used to working hard,” says Bogosian, who credits his father, a former Syracuse University football captain, and his uncle, an All-American football player at West Point, for his leadership skills.
The above traits were instilled at a young age, much like a passion for the game, which grew during Bogosian’s 11-year stint with the Massena (N.Y.) Minor Hockey Association, starting at the age of 3.
“Growing up playing hockey, you dream of playing in the NHL, but it is more about throwing on the jersey to go out and have fun,” says Bogosian. “Getting to go to other parts of the state was exciting, and I just enjoyed playing youth hockey.”
While his love of the game is apparent, it was his talent that drew attention. In the summer of 2004, Bogosian began to make a name for himself at the national level when he participated in his first USA Hockey Player Development Camp. He also made the big jump of living away from home to pursue his hockey dreams, attending Cushing Academy in Massachusetts, where he played with his older brother, Aaron.
“The experience makes you mature quicker,” says Bogosian. “You have to be on top of your school work and grow up quicker than most high school kids, but it was a good experience for me to grow up off the ice.”
The only question now is whether he can repeat that same level of play in the NHL. And if he can live up to the hype.