Zach Bogosian has had the privilege of enjoying the company of two Hall of Fame defensemen. He and the Atlanta Thrashers hope some of their wisdom has rubbed off on him.
Bogosian, selected No. 3 in the 2008 Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, played youth hockey with the nephew of New Jersey Devils Hall of Famer Scott Stevens. He also got the chance to spend some time at Stevens' cottage after Stevens and the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000.
Bogosian was in the presence of not just a legendary defenseman, but also the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy, which Stevens won as Playoff MVP. Stevens held up the Cup in front of Bogosian; in due time, Bogosian hopes to earn the same opportunity.
"When Scott Stevens won the Stanley Cup in 2000 with New Jersey, I got a chance to spend five days with him at his cottage," Bogosian said. "I saw him raise the Stanley Cup right in front of me. And I saw the Conn Smythe Trophy. It was pretty fun just to go there for five days. I played with his nephew when I was younger, and I was the only non-family member there. I felt a little out of place, but I got treated very well and it was a fun experience."
Bogosian didn't spend any time on the ice with Stevens, but he did with Ray Bourque, whose son Christopher was a teammate at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass. -- with Ray serving as a coach.
"My first year I was a little slow," Bogosian said. "I was young and small and I was on an old team and didn't get to play too much. But I came into my 10th-grade year -- it would have been my draft year for the OHL -- and Ray Bourque's son, that was his first year. He was there as a volunteer assistant coach, and he got on the ice with us probably three, four times a week. … He taught me a lot of little things about coming in to the zone late and being deceptive coming up the ice. So it was good to have him around."
There is no doubting Bourque or Stevens' work ethic, and the same can be said of Bogosian, who commutes more than 90 minutes each way to Ottawa from his home in Massena, N.Y., to get a better workout during the summer.
"I think just wanting to play against guys like (top draft pick Steve) Stamkos and just showing guys around the league that I can play with the top guys,"
-- Zach Bogosian
"Some mornings he leaves at 6:30 in the morning and it takes him an hour and 45 minutes," his father, Ike, told USA Today. "And this is his third summer of doing this. I can see him still doing this 10 or 15 years from now."
Bogosian had 61 points last season with the Peterborough Petes and was the only defenseman in the Ontario Hockey League to lead his team in scoring. But not only is Bogosian an offensive force, but he was counted on in Peterborough to be the club's top shut-down defenseman -- a role he takes pride in. He finished second on the team with a plus-8 rating.
"I think just wanting to play against guys like (top draft pick Steve) Stamkos and just showing guys around the league that I can play with the top guys," Bogosian said of playing against opponents' top offensive threats. "And hopefully I do pretty well against them. But playing against (John) Tavares and (Brett) MacLean, the one-two punch (for the Oshawa Generals), it's kind of hard to contain both of them at the same time. But I think going out and competing, if you work hard, I think it will get you a long way."
The Thrashers, who've never had a top-flight defenseman since entering the NHL in 1999, are hoping Bogosian can fill the bill. He'll have every opportunity to make the team at training camp along with holdovers such as Tobias Enstrom and newcomer Ron Hainsey. If he doesn't make it this time, it won't be for lack of effort -- or willingness to compete.