Zach Bogosian said he skated more this summer than he can ever remember.
In all honesty, it was happenstance. Living in Minnesota he had access to plenty of ice time and the opportunity to skate with other pros. He finally had the offseason he was looking for: a solid month of recovery with significant family time followed by a gradual build in workouts and skating to prepare him for his 10th season in the National Hockey League.
As far as happenstances go, the timing was perfect for Bogosian.
While skating has always been one of the strengths of his game, the 27-year-old defenseman should have the opportunity to showcase that skill more under the new systems of first-year Buffalo Sabres coach Phil Housley.
"Phil's big thing is pace through practice and anytime you're doing the drill, you're doing it at top speed and maximum effort every time," Bogosian said Monday afternoon after the Sabres training camp practice in HarborCenter. "It's been good that way."
Housley has brought new energy and intensity to Sabres camp, evident by the speed, focus, and intensity shown by the players during practices.
The new coach has also brought a new defensive philosophy, one that encourages defensemen to move up with the play and take a more aggressive offensive-zone role. That's something which puts a smile on Bogosian's face.
"You try to play to your strengths. Skating. Trying to get up in the play," Bogosian said. "Even if you're up in the play and you don't get the puck, you're still doing something. You're drawing attention to you that might open up someone else. Anytime you can get at least four in the rush, I think it's going to be good for us offensively."
Bogosian's best point total came in 2011-12 with the Winnipeg Jets when he had 30 points (five goals, 25 assists). His best goal-production came two seasons ago in Buffalo when he netted seven, including three on the power play, in a 24-point season.
But the stat that jumps out has nothing to do with offense. And it's a dubious stat at that. Bogosian is the active leader in the NHL for number of games played without having played in a playoff game. Bogosian has played in 534 NHL games. He has never played in the postseason.
"Obviously it's been a long time for me in the league to not play in any playoff games," Bogosian said. "I think we're moving in the right direction but you can't get there without playing 82 games so we've got to make sure we're playing every game the right way. You're going to have ups and downs like any other season but just being more consistent as a team I think will be our No. 1 thing right now."
Regardless of his lack of postseason experience, Housley sees an emerging leader in Bogosian, someone who has an enthusiasm for the game and an attitude that helps develop the younger players.
"He looks like he's full of energy. He comes to the rink with a smile on his face," Housley said of Bogosian. "He's helped the younger guys. He's leading by example on the ice and there's just a great attitude by him in his approach."
Reaching the 500-game plateau and the age of 27 may be why more people are talking about Bogosian's leadership ability. Age and longevity may crown someone a leader by default, but for Bogosian, the leadership qualities he's being praised for now have always been part of his identity.
"I don't think it's anything I emphasize, I think it's just the way I am," Bogosian said. "I just think it's my personality. It's no more, no less than what I've done in the previous years. Maybe it's just being talked about now. I try to be as good of a teammate as I can possibly be. Come in. Work hard. And go about it with a positive attitude and a smile on my face. That's how I've approached this year. I'll just keep doing that every day and try to make myself better and make the team better."
Bogosian's leadership doesn't just extend to his day job. While watching the destruction of Hurricane Harvey unfold on social media, he decided to set up a fundraiser through his charitable foundation, The Bogo Bunch, setting a goal of raising $20,000 for the Houston Food Bank.
"You see something like that in the comfort of your own home, you feel bad," Bogosian said. "It's something where it would be nice to get down there and help people, but obviously with my job right now, I can't do that. I thought the least I could do was raise money and supply people with water and food and money.
"Anything counts. Obviously when you set a goal, you want to reach it but I think in a charity situation anything is great. We'll keep it open and whoever wants to donate can donate and we'll see how it goes. I think we're at almost $12,000 now. A little over half. If that's all we get, that's $12,000 that wasn't there before."