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Finding His Groove

by Kristi Hennessy / Winnipeg Jets

Zach Bogosian and his two older brothers were raised by his mother Vicki and father Ike in Massena, New York, a town of 13,000. The three boys attended Cushing Academy, a prep high school in Massachusetts. Ray Bourque, arguably one of the best defencemen to ever play in the NHL, was the assistant coach for Zach and his brother Aaron.

“My tenth grade year he was a volunteer assistant coach,” said Bogosian. “I worked with him three or four days a week. At first you’re kind of star struck when you’re that young talking to one of the best defencemen that ever played, but he’s a cool guy and really easy to talk to.”

It wasn’t all about hockey for Bogosian growing up. Playing hockey as a profession didn’t enter his mind until about the age of 16, when Ontario Hockey League scouts began to hover over his shoulder.

“I played soccer, hockey and lacrosse,” he said.  “At one point I was better at lacrosse than hockey and I started to think I wanted to be a lacrosse player.

“I went to an Ottawa 67’s game when I was younger and wanted to play there after that. The OHL thing had sort of left my mind for a bit in high school but once I was in my tenth grade year I started to get looked at for the OHL.”

Things opened up for him quickly as the Peterborough Petes selected him 19th overall at the 2006 OHL draft, and just like that, the decision was made to go play hockey in Canada.

“It was pretty much my parents who made the decision,” he explained. “My mom and dad knew it was the right opportunity for me. At that point in my life, I was starting to get bigger and would be able to handle the major junior route.

“I loved it there. They gave me all the opportunities in the world to succeed. I had great coaching and it was a great organization. It was a special part of my life. I’ll never forget my two years there.”

During his second year in Peterborough, Bogosian played in the 2008 CHL Top Prospect game, an annual all-star game of prospects from the three leagues in the Canadian Hockey League.

“I was really nervous for that game because I didn’t really know how I measured up with other guys in my draft class,” he remembered. “I wasn’t really recognized as one of the top players until maybe after Christmas. 

“At one point I was rated 100th and then jumped up to 25th and then Central Scouting had me at two or three.”

Bogosian was selected third overall by the Atlanta Thrashers at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, behind Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty.

“It was a pretty special day. It was in Ottawa, which was an hour and a half from my house so I had a lot of friends and family there. I grew up a Senators fan so it was pretty cool to get drafted in the rink that they play in.”

That summer Bogosian made a great impression at the Thrashers prospect camp and earned himself a spot on the roster. He made his NHL debut on October 10, 2008 and became the youngest player to play for the Thrashers organization. Things seemed like they were rolling along smoothly for the young defenceman however he hit a bump in the road just eight games into his professional career when he broke his left leg in a game against the Flyers.

“That was more mental than physical,” he explained. “When I broke my leg it was the eighth or ninth game, which is usually the timetable for junior players to get sent back to junior.”

The Thrashers decided to keep him around despite the broken leg and send him down to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL on a conditioning assignment.

The passion that I have for hockey and the fan support that we have here has made all the difference. I love playing here and hope I play here for a really long time. - Zach Bogosian
“I think it was probably the best thing for me,” he said. “I had broken my wrist in Peterborough and played the whole playoffs with a broken wrist then had to train for the combine, then the draft, rookie camp, World Junior camp and then to Atlanta for main camp. I thought, ‘When is it going to stop?”

“It was a lot for an 18-year-old so it was good to sit in the press box and watch different teams and different players and have that rest.”

He finished the 2008-09 season with 19 points in 47 games with the Thrashers. Injuries continued to hinder on his early career as he injured his wrist just three games into his sophomore season, and then broke his thumb shortly after.

“I like to play physical and it was tough for me to push guys around and battle for pucks with a sore wrist,” he said. “I only took one game off, if it happened now I think I’d take more time to make sure it was healed,” said Bogosian.

In the 2010-11 season, he continued to struggle offensively as he only recorded five goals and 17 points through 71 games. When the announcement came that the Thrashers had been sold and would relocate to Winnipeg, Bogosian said that was the fresh start he was looking for and his passion for hockey was reborn.

“Winnipeg made me that much more excited to play hockey,” he said. “The new opportunity, new coaching, new GM, pretty much new everything gave me a clean slate. It seemed like things weren’t really going my way in Atlanta. I wouldn’t exactly say I was playing my best hockey.”

There was one thing missing from the new opportunity for Bogosian – a new contract. It was down to the wire but the Winnipeg Jets presented him with a two-year deal on September 14th and he was more than happy to sign on the dotted line.

“I was probably the most excited in the off-season that we were coming here because I always wanted to play in a hockey market,” he said. I’m glad they wanted to keep me here for two years and hopefully many more years to come.

“I love hockey, it’s a huge part of my life. The passion that I have for hockey and the fan support that we have here has made all the difference. I love playing here and hope I play here for a really long time.”

Bogosian credits his parents for helping him get to where he is today.

“They kept me grounded the whole time,” he explained. “Even through all of this with coming to Winnipeg, where you’re kind of a rock star and everyone knows who you are. I’ve managed to stay humble and I give credit to my parents because I’ll never forget where I’m from or how I got here.”
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