July 13 2011 12:41PM
The Winnipeg Jets have a couple of significant restricted free agents left to sign, not the least of which is 21-year old Zach Bogosian. Attitudes about the former third overall draft pick were sharply divergent in Atlanta last year, particular in how a majority of the fans felt about the player versus how the coaching staff deployed him. He has become something of a controversial player as a result.
There's no question that Bogosian has struggled from certain angles since becoming a regular in 2008-09. Drafted in the top-5 in part because of his high-end offensive output in the OHL (11-goals, 61-points in his draft year), Bogosian hasn't put up numbers yet in his young career, topping out at 10-goals and 23-points in 2009-10. His offensive contributions actually fell last year to just 17-points, further exacerbating frustrations about his development.
Bogosian doesn't have the best underlying numbers either. He had the second worst possession rate amongst regular skaters on the back-end of ATL last season (-6.98/60) with only partner Johnny Oduya finishing behind him (-8.32/60). He also scored at a fairly marginal rate (0.54pts/60) at even strength.
With all that in mind, it makes one wonder why the Jets would bother to re-sign Bogosian in the first place. Seems to be a pretty marginal player.
The truth is, the kid has been playing the toughest minutes available for the club over the last two years, which is the main reason his numbers stink. No blueliner faced a tougher quality of competition for the Thrashers last season. Bogosian's offensive-to-defensive zone start ratio was the second most difficult on the club (47.9%) behind Oduya. Only Dustin Byfuglien averaged more ice time than Bogosian for the Thrash at ES and Bogosian was second the blueline in terms of average SH ice time.
On the other hand, Bogosian was relegated to a lesser power-play role (1:58/game) with Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom soaking up almost all of the ice time on the extra man most nights (4:02 and 4:32, respectively). Those two guys also got the most favorable treatment from Craig Ramsey in terms of starting position at even strength, with zone starts north of 55%, which helps explain their surperior offensive totals.
Bogosian was leaned on heavily in Atlanta to give the high ground to other players. He didn't exactly flourish under those circumstances, but most defenders at the age of 19 and 20-years old aren't even in the league, let alone facing other teams top lines from their own end every night.
As such, he figures to be a significant part of the Jets blueline going forward. If new coach Claude Noel decides to deploy his defenders in a more equitable manner, there is no doubt Bogosian's counting stats will improve going forward as well. Given the trial-by-fire described above, his impressive set of physical tools and his draft pedigree, Bogosian is a decent bet to develop into a high-end, shut-down defender in the next few years.