Big Brown showed us that "sure things" sometimes aren't, but Zach Bogosian
, the No. 2-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting for the 2008 Entry Draft, looks pretty close to a sure thing.
Bogosian hails from a Massena, N.Y., family that has produced notable athletes. He's been given incredible opportunities and has taken advantage of them. He's big, tough, talented and skilled.
To get an idea of Zach Bogosian
's nature, think of the main water pipe into your house, covered by insulation – a soft wrapper around cast iron.
Bogosian presents a pleasant personality to the public, but he's hard as they come inside. You can hear it in his determination, you can track it in his career choices and you can see it in his eyes.
During the past two summers, Bogosian has trained with Philadelphia Flyers
center Daniel Briere
and members of the Ottawa Senators
. He was coached by Ray Bourque
and Steve Jacobs at Cushing Academy in Massachusetts, and by Vince Malette during the past two seasons with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.
Oh, and he went to Shattuck-St. Mary's for a summer hockey school, where he was instructed by former New York Islander J.P. Parise.
Bogosian had the confidence in his abilities to say no to the United States National Team Development Pogram. As the second-best skater his age on the continent, he was surprised the Americans haven't selected him for international play, but he's keeping his thoughts to himself in hopes he'll be included on future U.S. teams.
"I tried out for the NTDP team in 2006 and I had offers to play there, the USHL, the OHL or Cushing Academy," Bogosian said. "I wasn't ready then to make a decision that limited future choices."
When asked if he thought he should have been chosen for American teams in his age bracket, Bogosian had a controlled, ready answer.
"I try not to worry too much about that stuff," he said. "It was out of my power. My job is to be a mature person, move on and don't worry about something that didn't happen. If I think too much about it, it will bother me. If I look forward and use it as motivation, it will help me in the long run."
He certainly has no regrets about attending Cushing and playing with Ryan Bourque
– Ray’s son – who played two seasons with the U.S. NTDP.
"The hockey and schooling made me more mature," Bogosian said. "They taught me how to act off the ice and on and to live away from home. It was fun living in a boarding school. You're on your own, but not really, and it advances your maturity."
If Cushing was his finishing school, Peterborough has been his school for higher learning.
"It's been great playing for Peterborough,” Bogosian said. “We have an identity and most of our games are pretty rough. We have a few guys who will drop the gloves and stir momentum. We got pushed around in my underage year, but this past season was a change. Coming into the year, we knew we would have to play rough.
"We weren't the most skilled team, so if we pushed some guys around, we knew it would help us win."
Bogosian jumped to No. 2 from No. 3 when the mid-term rankings were released in January. He had made even more improvement earlier.
"I moved from No. 12 in the preseason rankings," he said. "I worked on my strength over the summer and got a lot stronger. I'm so competitive; my mean streak just came out. If I had to fight, I did, but I didn't go looking for it."
With 61 points (11 goals, 50 assists), Bogosian was the only OHL defenseman to lead his team in scoring. If an NHL team wants him for his offense, that's fine, but Bogosian stresses his defensive abilities.
"Most kids want to play offense (but) I definitely think defense," Bogosian said. "The new rules benefit the way I play because I can use my skating to my advantage. I like to think of myself as a two-way player who takes care of defense first but is not afraid to jump up in the rush."
Bogosian believes his family's background in athletics has given him a head start on rivals. His father, Ike, was co-captain of the 1981 Syracuse University football team along with former New York Giants running back Joe Morris, and his uncle was an All-American football captain at West Point.
Zach joined the Massena Minor Hockey Association at age 3 and played there until he was 14.
"I started skating when I was 2½," Bogosian said. "My dad's best friend, Mark Morris
, was the Clarkson hockey coach for 12 years and he's now head coach with the Manchester Monarchs in the AHL. Mark got me started in hockey. My dad taught me competitiveness and hard work and Mark taught me hockey.
"I think my understanding of hockey is one of my better attributes. I watch Nick Lidstrom and Chris Pronger
, the way they compete and how good they are defensively. I'm more of a containing defenseman."
Steve Stamkos, the No. 1-ranked North American skater, likely will go to the Tampa Bay Lightning
, who have the top choice in the draft. The Los Angeles Kings
have the second pick. They could go with Bogosian, who knows the head coach of their AHL affiliate in New Hampshire, or Drew Doughty
, another big OHL defenseman who is the No. 3-ranked North American skater. Doughty wore No. 99 as a kid in honor of the Kings' Wayne Gretzky
and his bedroom was a shrine to the Kings and “The Great One.”