ATLANTA — Zach Bogosian couldn’t have picked a better place to go to high school.
That’s because Bogosian, selected No. 3 overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the NHL draft Friday night, had Raymond Borque working as a volunteer assistant coach at Cushing Academy, a prep school located about 50 miles northwest of Boston.
Borque was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 after ending a 22-year tenure that included NHL career records for goals and assists by a defenseman.
Bogosian, who turns 18 on July 15, was a high-school teammate of Borque’s son Ryan, and Atlanta’s new defensive centerpiece used those two years to seek advice from a hockey legend.
“It was a great situation for me,” Bogosian said. “I got to see not only what he did on the ice three to four days a week, but watching him off the ice and seeing how he dealt with people was a good learning experience for me.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Bogosian was considered by many draft experts as an equivalent talent to Drew Doughty, a defenseman who went No. 2 to Los Angeles.
Tampa Bay took Steven Stamkos with the first overall pick.
Coming off a 34-40-8 season that began with Bob Hartley’s firing and ended with the Thrashers far out of playoff contention, general manager Don Waddell hired John Anderson as coach on Friday.
NHL Central Scouting ranked Bogosian, a native of Massena, N.Y., who spent last year with the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes, as the No. 2-ranked U.S. skater. Bogosian was the only defenseman last season to lead an OHL team in points (61).
“It’s hard to say what any of that really means,” Bogosian said. “The difference for me was instead of taking the NCAA route and going to college, I went to the OHL to get my career started up.”
Atlanta’s selection of Bogosian compensates for Waddell’s trade for defenseman Alexei Zhitnik in February 2007.
Waddell sent Braydon Coburn, a promising defenseman and the No. 8 overall pick of 2003, to Philadelphia for Zhitnik, a solid acquisition to the power play in Atlanta’s march to the ‘07 Southeast Division title and the franchise’s first playoff appearance.
Zhitnik fell out of favor last season, causing Waddell to make him a healthy scratch in the final 14 games. Even worse, the Thrashers’ defense was so inconsistent that it tied Tampa Bay for last in the league with a 3.24 goals-against average.
Despite leading the division last Feb. 16, the Thrashers essentially gave up trying to make the playoffs with the trade of forward Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh.
Waddell’s deal with the Penguins brought the No. 29 overall pick to Atlanta in this year’s draft.
Though Waddell and Anderson will decide in late summer if Bogosian will make the Thrashers, the rookie’s potential is unmistakable. Bogosian had 50 assists last season, second among OHL defensemen.
His connection to Borque is one link in his proverbial chain, but Bogosian also wears jersey No. 4 in honor of another defenseman with star pedigree, former Boston great Bobby Orr.
“I’m not going to compare myself to any legendary player,” Bogosian said. “I haven’t accomplished anything. Those guys are some of the best to ever play the game.”