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Peterborough's Bogosian wise beyond his years

by Aaron Bell

Zach Bogosian was rated third among Ontario Hockey League prospects in the NHL Central Scouting preliminary draft rankings released two weeks ago.
Zach Bogosian loves a challenge.

That may explain why he seems to be getting better on a daily basis despite having a very bright spotlight shining on him as one of the top prospects for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

The second-year defenseman with the Peterborough Petes was rated third among Ontario Hockey League prospects in the NHL Central Scouting preliminary draft rankings released two weeks ago. He has jumped from early predictions and finds himself behind Steven Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting and Drew Doughty of the Guelph Storm, who many believe will be the top two picks in the draft in June.

But despite his early season accolades, Bogosian hasn’t spent much time reading his own headlines.

“I try not to think about it too much,” said Bogosian, who measures in at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. “I’m just taking things a game at a time and just trying to stay calm out there and do my job.”

Bogosian is far more focused on the fate of his hockey club these days. The Petes have struggled of late, winning just two of their past 15 games.

Bogosian has four goals and leads the Petes with 22 points in 23 games this season and, despite his team’s recent slide, he is on an eight-game point-scoring streak.

“We’ve been down a little bit lately,” said Bogosian, an alternate captain with the Petes and one of the most consistently physical players in the league. “I think we just have to get back to basics – getting pucks deep, finishing our checks and just play simple hockey. If we get back on that track, I think we’ll be all right.”

Bogosian uses his team’s success as a barometer for how he is performing. He thrives on the pressure of shutting down the opposition’s top forwards, including phenom John Tavares of the Oshawa Generals, the Petes’ most ardent rivals.

Bogosian was on the ice for three goals in his first matchup against Oshawa this season. He didn’t take the loss lightly and was responsible for holding Tavares -- the OHL’s scoring leader and reigning player of the year -- to one goal in a recent home-and-home series against the Generals.

“He goes up against the best players on the other teams and he contains the best players in the league,” said Petes coach Vince Malette. “He takes it as a challenge. He wants to shut those guys down and it speaks a lot about Zach’s game defensively. He’s solid defensively, and at the same time he can skate with the puck. He doesn’t lose any speed when he’s handling the puck. He’s good offensively and knows when to jump into the play. He’s got a complete game.”

Malette says Bogosian’s competitive nature separates him from a lot of other players.

“He is very competitive,” Malette said. “When we are in practice and doing drills, he doesn’t want to get beat. He wants to be the best. That’s what defines him. He thrives on competing against the best players in this league.”

While Bogosian loves shutting down the opposition’s best players, it was his offense that helped the Petes snap a lengthy losing streak a couple weeks ago. He scored a power-play goal in the second period that helped the Petes rally from a 3-1 deficit, and then buried the winner in the shootout to push the Petes to a 4-3 win against the Generals. It was Peterborough’s first win in six games.

“I like to throw a little bit of offense in there, too,” said Bogosian, who scored seven goals and 33 points in 67 games as a rookie last season. “But I like to play defense, too. I am a defenseman, so I have to make sure that I take care of my own zone first.”

Bogosian already has had some all-star direction on his play on the blue line.

His agent is Bobby Orr, and Ray Bourque was one of his assistant coaches when he played at Cushing Academy in Boston two years ago. Bourque’s son Ryan also played on that team, and the Hall of Famer shared some tips on playing the position with Bogosian.

“He really helped me out,” Bogosian told the Peterborough Examiner weeks after he was drafted by the Petes in the first round of the OHL Priority Selection draft in 2006. “He’s a great guy and really supportive of all of his players. He’s a great all-around guy. On the ice, you can’t be taught by anybody better. He told me that hard work carries you far and to not stop until you get what you want.”

Bogosian still feels like he has work to do in all areas of his game before he is ready to jump to the next level.

Bogosian grew up in Massena, N.Y., a town of 13,000 that is separated from Eastern Ontario by the St. Lawrence River. Despite the town’s proximity to the Canadian border, Bogosian said that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for him to develop as an elite player there and he moved to Boston for high school and to play at Cushing Academy with his older brother, Aaron.

“Not a lot of kids play hockey there – it’s a pretty small town,” Bogosian said. “It’s a nice place to grow up – nice and quiet.”

Malette believes that Bogosian’s small-town upbringing helped instill solid values in Bogosian that he benefits from every day.

“He’s very mature away from the rink,” Malette said. “He does all the right things -- he makes sure of what he eats, he gets the proper amount of rest and he works out every day -- he’s religious about it. It doesn’t matter if the team is working out; he’s on his own program to make himself better. He’ll be captain one day here for the Peterborough Petes, but he’ll also be a captain in the NHL one day.”

Despite the high praise from his coach and the scouts that have been watching him, Bogosian still feels like he has work to do in all areas of his game before he is ready to jump to the next level.

“Pretty much everything,” Bogosian said. “Everyone can improve on anything. I’m just coming in every game and trying to keep it simple and taking it a game at a time.”

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