After seven years and well over 400 NHL games, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian is pretty much where he should be at this point in his career--a young-vet on the second pairing on an up and coming team showing the youngins the way. The 26 yr. old Massena, NY native who came from the Winnipeg Jets in the Evander Kane/Tyler Myers trade was second on the Sabres in overall time on ice (22:20) and second even-strength (19:28.) Bogosian was also on the second unit penalty kill and also logged plenty of time on the second-unit powerplay.
When we built the roster last season here's what we had to say about him, "at the very least we're looking at a second-pairing, physical defenseman with Robyn Regehr-like traits who is a smooth skater, strong puck mover and one can put some points on the board. At best he looks to be a No. 2/3 who can really be a veteran anchor for a strong group of young defensemen the Sabres will be integrating into the lineup over the course of the next three or four years."
That latter portion was especially true when it came to his defense-partner for most of the season, 22 yr. old Jake McCabe. Later in the season with the team gaining traction the duo put together a nice month of March. Buffalo went 7-4-4, their best of the season (and best since 2013, according to Sabres PR) with the Bogosian/McCabe pairing adding strong contributions. They had combined +7 rating on the month while Bogosian had his strongest month as a Sabre with scoring three goals and adding six assists.
Those are the types of offensive numbers that are often associated with, and expected of, a top pick in the draft but unfortunately for Bogosian those types of numbers have largely eluded him since his rookie season with the Atlanta Thrashers when he scored nine goals and added 10 assists in 47 games.
Perhaps his talents were overvalued by scouts, although 61 points (11g-51a) in 60 games for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL is hard to dismiss. Perhaps it was the morass he encountered in Atlanta as the team was in a constant state of disarray and a perennial bottom-feeder before the move to Winnipeg. Or maybe the weight of a hefty contract extension he signed with the Jets after another strong season factored into his offensive demise. All should be considered as contributing factors but quite possibly the biggest reason for Bogosian looking more like a solid journeyman through much of his recent career is injuries.
The 6'3" 219 lb. Bogosian hasn't played an 80-game season since 2009-10. Since then he hit 70 games once and 60 games twice. Last year Bogosian started out the season on injured reserve after suffering a lower body injury in a September preseason game. He tried to comeback in early October but didn't play in a game until November 17th when the Sabres were already 17 games into their season. And it took him even more time to get into the groove, "I'm starting to turn that corner where you're in season-mode," he said after a December game in Detroit, "so I'm definitely feeling good. Feeling stronger and stronger every game."
Although the ramp-up from IR to a high-quality month of March was long and disjointed at times, Bogosian had a strong, positive affect on McCabe. The rookie, who has similar traits to Bogosian like strong skating and the penchant for laying out a solid hit, developed rather nicely in his first full NHL season and progressed to the point where he looked real good in a second-pairing role. McCabe attributed much of that to Bogo saying he's easy to play with, won't get on you for a bad play and is constantly talking on the ice.
Those are pretty crucial elements for the Sabres moving forward as Sabres GM Tim Murray wants to inject youth into the line up on a gradual basis to the tune of one or two young players a year. With Rasmus Ristolainen up-top on defense and Bogosian anchoring the second pairing (when healthy,) the Sabres have the right side of their top-four on pretty much set barring anything weird happening. McCabe, a lefty, just completed his rookie campaign while in the hopper the Sabres have a very talented 19 yr. old in Brendan Guhle, who is also left-handed. It's expected that within the next few years those two will be considered young contributors on the Sabres back-end.
Bogosian has four more years left on his contract and although his $5.1M cap-hit looks to be rather hefty at this point in time things could change for the better should stability and health rule the season. With the way he finished last year it sure looks as if that could very well be the case.
Building the 2016-17 Buffalo Sabres roster:
LW, Evander Kane / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Tyler Ennis / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
D, Rasmus Ristolainen/ D, Dmitry Kulikov
D, Zach Bogosian
G, Robin Lehner