BUFFALO – After a 4-2 win Saturday that sent the locals home unhappy, the Atlanta Thrashers sat at 4-1-0; their best start in franchise history.
The reasons for their early season success are numerous, but the steady play of 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore blueliner Zach Bogosian is certainly a key.
“He’s only 19 and he’s logging over 20 minutes of ice time for us every game and he plays in all situations,” said Thrashers coach John Anderson. “We made a good draft choice and we’re just trying make as much use of him as possible.”
Picked third overall in 2008, the poised Bogosian stepped right onto the Thrashers blueline as a raw rookie, but just eight games into the season he suffered a broken leg that kept him out of the lineup for 28 games.
Bogosian put the time away to good use, though, studying the game from high above in the press box.
“You can’t hide anything from up top,” said Bogosian, who ended up with nine goals and 19 points in 47 games in 2008-09. “You see everything develop; all the mistakes.
“It was a bit of a negative – just because it was my dream to play in the NHL and eight games in I’m sidelined for like 40 games – but on the positive side I got to see different teams play.”
A native of Massena, N.Y., a town of 13,000 people in the north end of the state, Bogosian is part of an underrated defense corps in Atlanta highlighted by up-and-comer Tobias Enstrom, veteran Pavel Kubina and fellow American Ron Hainsey. The continued development of Enstrom, 24, and Bogosian, as well as the acquisition of Kubina, who was brought over from Toronto in the off-season, has created a back end that’s solid now, but will undoubtedly improve.
“I’ve played OK,” Bogosian said. “Right now I’m getting thrown into a lot of situations. Five games in, there’s a lot of room for improvement…I’m looking to come out every night and help the team win any way I can.
“I like to skate; I can move up with the rush and I’m probably not as effective if I sit back, so I just want to jump into the rush if possible, try to help that way.”
With a goal and two points through six contests, Bogosian isn’t setting the world on fire offensively, but he hasn’t had to. Thanks to an unexpected bounty of firepower up front, Atlanta has scored at least four goals in four of its first six games and sits tied for fifth with Philadelphia and Washington in goals per game at 3.50.
“Coming in we’ve had the right attitude,” Bogosian said. “We know the system. The returning guys from last year are pretty excited. The trade, the free-agent signing; Pavel and Nik are two big parts of our team now.”
The “Nik” is Nik Antropov, who GM Don Waddell threw $16 million at to spend the next four years creating offense in the Dirty South. For his part, the big Kazakh likes what he sees out of his young teammate.
“He belongs in the NHL,” Antropov said. “He’s only 19, but he’s a great player and he’s only going to improve every game. He’s going to be a helluva player.”
It’s far too early to start proclaiming Atlanta a playoff team, but even a player as inexperienced as Bogosian knows the significance of getting the Thrashers into the dance.
“From what I’ve heard, when they made the playoffs it’s pretty crazy in that rink,” Bogosian said. “Hockey continues to grow in Atlanta, but obviously if you can make it in the playoffs and do some damage that’s going to help us and help young kids follow the game and get into it.”
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
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