There's a good shot Ontario Hockey League defensemen Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian will be selected with consecutive picks at the 2008 NHL draft on Friday. For sure, their professional destinations will be sorted out in the first half hour.
According to NHL Central Scouting's midseason rankings of draft-eligible prospects, Doughty was No. 2 among North American skaters and Bogosian No. 3.
When the final NHLCS rankings came out a few weeks back, the defensemen had switched places, which might lead you to believe that they're pretty close, maybe even interchangeable.
In a lot of ways, though, you couldn't find two more different players.
You don't need to go much farther than the back of a hockey card to figure some of it out. Doughty, who plays for the Guelph Storm, was born and raised in London, Ontario. Bogosian, who plays for the Peterborough Petes, grew up in Massena, N.Y. Still, more than the border separates the players.
Doughty is a player who can take over a game, and often does. He was the lead blueliner for Team Canada when it won gold at the world juniors in January. One shift he would start the offense with a breakout pass, the next he would jump into the rush. In the OHL, Doughty logged huge minutes for the Storm, 35 some nights, other nights even more. Off the ice, he's a laid-back character -- scouts who like him will put that down as "cool" and others as "a little casual." Given his surname, it's no surprise that his nickname is "Doughnuts," but there's a bit of a backhand there too (the 6-footer was over 215 and pushing 220 this season and it wasn't simply a matter of being big-boned).
Doughty is doing his level best to get past the "doughy" label.
"I've been working out five times a week since the season ended, like I never worked out before," he said. "I've dropped about 14 pounds and brought my body fat way down."
It's hard to figure out how a player logging so much ice time wouldn't be worn out and would have any weight to lose. That, however, goes to the strength of Doughty's game. It's a variation on the old John Kruk theme -- "Lady, I'm not an athlete, I'm a hockey player."
If you focus on body fat and fast- and slow-twitch muscles, you'll miss what Doughty brings to the table.
Good prospects have hockey sense, but a few elite ones have game management. Opposing players see it. Said Windsor Spitfires defenseman Ryan Ellis, a top prospect for the 2009 draft: "Drew Doughty has been a big influence on me, even if he's only a couple of years ahead of me. I went to his games when I was younger and watched how he controlled play."
Said one scout: "He might be doing all this training for when he takes his shirt off at the combine, but it'll only matter when he goes to the beach this summer. He just plays the game. If he's been that good without the work on conditioning, how good can he be down the line? Just that much better."
Though he reads plays like a 10-year pro, Doughty didn't commit to playing the blue line until he played bantam hockey. "I played forward before that, but that season we needed D, so I went back there," he said.
Doughty comes off as a player who'll do what's asked of him.
"This year with Guelph, we knew we were going to struggle to score, so I had to look for my offense a bit more and maybe that's why people look at me as an offense-first guy," he said. "But at the under-20s, I played with [Washington prospect] Karl Alzner in more of a shutdown role and I think I did a pretty good job with that."
If there's any reservation about Doughty beyond conditioning, it's the idea that there's only so much room for growth in his game, that he's close to a finished product at this point. Such is not the case with Bogosian.
Says Peterborough general manager Jeff Twohey: "It's incredible how much Zach has improved since he came to us two years ago. He was a 16-year-old coming out of Cushing Academy [a prep school in Ashburnham, Mass., where Hall of Famer Ray Bourque is an assistant coach].
"Sometimes at Cushing, he was the fifth or sixth defenseman. With us, he was thrown into a tough situation with a rebuilding team. A lot of nights, he was in against 19- and 20-year-olds who were at NHL camps a few weeks before. But Zach got better one week to the next."
Most of Bogosian's teammates at Cushing, including Bourque's son Ryan, are going the U.S. college route and it appeared he would have, too. He has family history in the NCAA: His father, Ike Bogosian, was a strong safety and captain at Syracuse, a teammate of former New York Giant Joe Morris, and his uncle Steve was a defensive tackle at West Point. But Zach was more open to playing Canadian junior hockey than a lot of American kids. He was just a third-grader when his father took him up to Ottawa 67's games and the OHL made a big impression on him.
"It's not for everybody, but [going to Peterborough] gave me a chance to play a lot right away against good players," Bogosian said.
With Anaheim's Chris Pronger just one of the Petes' dozens of alums in the NHL, Twohey knows something about elite defenseman. While he hesitates to make the comparison to Pronger, Twohey resigned himself to the idea that Bogosian might make the jump directly to the NHL next season.
Bogosian's makeup is the polar opposite of Doughty's.
"A hugely competitive young man, a lot of self-confidence, but zero arrogance," Twohey said. "He'll be a captain in the NHL."
"Yeah, that would be fair, maybe hypercompetitive," Bogosian said. "I hate to lose hate it. Not just a game. I don't like to get beat on a shift."
You can hear it in his voice when he's asked about John Tavares, the high-scoring wunderkind with the Oshawa Generals, the Petes' rival down the highway.
"It wasn't Tavares who gave me the most trouble," Bogosian said. "No, I had a tougher time with Kevin Baker [Tavares' Oshawa teammate]."
And if Doughty is only lately finding his way to the gym, Bogosian bought in early. These days, he's commuting five times a week from Massena to Ottawa to train with strength coaches who work in the offseason with the Senators and other NHLers.
A few other players might land in the second and third slots in the draft. Another OHL defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo of the Niagara IceDogs, is in the mix. The top-ranked European skater, Russian left winger Nikita Filatov, is a wild card; if it came down just to talent and skill, he'd be in the conversation, but the ability to sign him and bring him to North America makes the others safer plays for lottery teams.
The most interesting 10 minutes of the draft may fall after Tampa Bay's selection of Steven Stamkos with the first overall pick.
The Los Angeles Kings, owners of the No. 2 pick, already have a couple of highly drafted defensemen in the organization. They picked up Jack Johnson, third overall in the 2005 draft, in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes. Last June, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi went off the board when he selected defenseman Thomas Hickey of the Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds fourth overall (though Hickey's a skilled D-man, most figured he'd fall in the middle of the first round, if not later).
In comparing Bogosian and Doughty, one might be the best player down the line, but the other a better fit in the short run with a young, talented Los Angeles defensive corps. Such is Lombardi's conundrum: There won't be a bad pick to make in that slot, but that second overall pick this season might be one of those calls that's second-guessed for a long time.
That the Kings are interviewing players who are likely to fall in the No. 5-No. 15 bracket suggests Lombardi is studying chances to trade down. Whether he holds on to the pick or not, it might just work out that with the No. 2 pick, Lombardi will shape not only his own team's future, but that of the Atlanta Thrashers, holders of the third overall pick.
Gare Joyce is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.