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Bogosian won't back down from challenge

Sunday, 10.19.2008 / 11:00 PM / Realizing The Dream

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

He got his left glove off in time, but Zach Bogosian never had a chance to shake his right one loose. Donald Brashear didn't give the 18-year-old defenseman enough time.

"He dropped his gloves so fast and started throwing before I could even think," Bogosian told NHL.com. "It took me a while to grab on, but once I did he didn't land too much."

Bogosian's "welcome to the NHL" moment came with 20 seconds left in his first game with the Atlanta Thrashers, but dropping the gloves (or glove) with one of most ferocious enforcers in League history is hardly the stuff that dreams are made of.

The fact that Bogosian did has won him a lot of admiration inside the Thrashers' dressing room. He's not just some young, brash kid anymore. He's a young, brash kid who won't back down from a challenge, even when it's coming from Brashear.

"When the guys got back to the locker room, they were all really excited for me," Bogosian said. "A lot of the guys were patting me on the back. It's good to know that they were showing the excitement that I did fight one of the tougher guys."

The fight lasted all of 13 seconds. Bogosian really never had a chance to win it. He bumped center David Steckel into the half-boards and then got run by Brashear. After getting up, he tried to find the puck again, but Brashear punched him twice in the back. Bogosian turned around and was face-to-face with the League's leading pugilist, who has 18 years, 3 inches and 40 pounds on the teenage defenseman.

"I knew what was going on," Bogosian said. "I knew who it was. The way I play, I usually end up fighting somehow. I figure I might as well start it off with that guy. I wasn't looking for it, but I wasn't going to back down."

If Bogosian has proven anything in his short NHL career, it's exactly that. He meets challenges head on, and usually comes out looking pretty good.

Bogosian, drafted third overall by the Thrashers this past June, has played in 4 of the team's 5 games so far -- he was a healthy scratch Tuesday against Minnesota -- with his last one being his best.

He has the support of his teammates and the encouragement from management. In fact, Atlanta General Manager Don Waddell told NHL.com on Thursday that the chances of Bogosian returning to the Peterborough Petes of the OHL are getting slimmer by the day.

The Thrashers have until after Bogosian plays in 9 games to decide if he's ready for a full NHL season. If he stays, his 3-year entry-level contract kicks in.

"I think for sure there is a pretty good chance that he'll remain with us," Waddell said. "The first 2 games, he was realizing that things were happening a lot quicker than on the junior level, so that's why we gave him a chance to watch from the stands. He jumped back in against the Devils (Thursday) night and I thought he played extremely well."

Bogosian agreed with Waddell's assessment, saying he felt more comfortable against New Jersey than he did in his previous two games against Florida and Washington. He found himself joining the rush and trying to chip in offensively.

He didn't do too much of that in the first two games, when he was averaging 13:13 of ice time. He played 16:17 against the Devils and recorded 2 shots on goal without committing a penalty. He had 3 minors and the fighting major in the first 2 games.

Atlanta coach John Anderson rewarded Bogosian by putting him on the point in the final minute of the 1-0 loss, after Kari Lehtonen was pulled for the extra skater.

"My first game I was nervous and going 5,000 miles per hour," Bogosian said. "Game by game you start to feel better, and (Thursday) night I felt really comfortable. I went in there knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I'm an offensive-defenseman."

Bogosian was paired with another offensive-defenseman Thursday night, but Mathieu Schneider is also acting as the teen's mentor.
Since arriving in Atlanta from Anaheim on Sept. 26, Schneider has taken Bogosian under his wing. Bogosian said he has gone to dinner with the 39-year-old veteran on multiple occasions and was planning to do so again Friday night.

"Since Day One he has been awesome with me," said Bogosian, who also credits Ron Hainsey for his early development. "It's easy to come into the locker room and sit next to a guy like that. It makes you feel comfortable. He told me I looked good (Thursday) night. He said as the games go on you will feel more comfortable and realize what you can and can't do. It's an honor to be playing with him."

Added Waddell: "I see them talking together all the time. Not only is it good on the ice, but off the ice Mathieu has been key for us and for Zach."

There's no doubt Bogosian is learning on the fly. He vividly remembers his first shift, but mostly because he couldn't believe that Sergei Fedorov was forechecking him. Bogosian wound up turning the puck over and then got caught holding Fedorov for his first minor penalty.

"The fans were screaming and yelling and you're an 18-year-old kid just looking around," Bogosian said. "It's crazy to think that you're in the NHL. It was crazy, the nerves are flying. Your blood is flowing. You think your whole life about what it would be like and all of a sudden, you're in the moment."

 
 
The holding penalty surprised Bogosian a bit. So, too, did the hooking penalty he got early in the second period against the Capitals. It was his first NHL game and he was getting a quick lesson in the nuances of the game at this level.

"You can't get away with as much (as you can in the OHL) because of the speed," Bogosian said. "They want scoring to happen so the power plays are going to help that. There are a lot more penalties, but you get the hang of it after a few games."

Bogosian said he started to figure that out against the Devils. Once he understands fully what he can do in the NHL, his potential may be limitless.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com

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