History not on Bogosian's side
My post on Zach Bogosian not being ready to make the Thrashers didn't exactly win me a lot of friends in Atlanta on the weekend:
Mirtle wonders whether eighteen-year-old Zacho Bogosian is old enough to "make an immediate impact" in the National Hockey League. Actually, he doesn't wonder; he's certain ...Well, let's put it this way: If he makes the team and plays a full season on the Thrashers blueline, he's certainly in some pretty rarified company.
To which I would answer: How does he know? What "facts" tell him this? PERHAPS Bogosian isn't NHL-ready, but perhaps he is. We don't know yet. That's what training camp is for.
First a bit of clarification: Of possible comparables Rob Blake and Chris Pronger, blogger Mortimer Peacock says "both of them entered the league at age 18 and put up some impressive numbers."
A veteran of three NCAA seasons, Blake was actually 20 before he stepped foot on an NHL ice surface and was 21 two months into his first full season. So he doesn't count.
Pronger, meanwhile, did step in immediately after being drafted, but turned 19 that fall in early October. A future Hart and Norris winner, he was decent on an awful Whalers team that first season — but there are certainly those out there who will tell you he was rushed into the league far too soon. (He also got into all sorts of off-ice trouble playing at that age.)
In terms of birthdates, Bogosian's is quite late, and he was the second youngest player taken in the first round of the 2008 draft. He won't be 19 until next July, and at that age, finding players who have succeeded on the blueline recently is very tough.
Only three defencemen in the last 20 years have played 50-plus games exclusively as an 18-year-old: Aki Berg and Kyle McLaren in 1995-96, and Roman Hamrlik in 1992-93.
Hamrlik turned 19 in April that year (and went minus-21 that season) while the other two have June birthdates.
Maybe those nine months difference between someone like Bogosian and a player like Pronger don't matter, but if that's the case, you wonder why so few of these "younger" defencemen play in the league. Very few have even had tryouts recently: Brent Burns played 36 games four years ago, mainly as a forward; Lukas Krajicek and Rostislav Klesla also had cups of coffee.
Even if you expand the definition to players that played as 19 year olds, there aren't a lot of success stories recently. Erik Johnson did it last season and Marc-Edouard Vlasic a year earlier, but other than that?
Jay Bouwmeester might be the best cautionary tale, if only because of how recently he made the jump. Bouwmeester played all 82 games at age 19 in 2002-03, but he had only 16 points and was minus-29 while playing 20 minutes a night on a team that finished 27th in the league.
Fast forward five years: Bouwmeester turns 25 on Saturday and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. Barring a minor miracle that sees the Panthers rise up the standings in the early going, he'll be dealt off in midseason to the highest bidder.
It doesn't take a genius to see the parallels there, and wonder if it's really worth the trade off.