In the late 70’s, singers Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg collaborated on a folksy-rock album called “Twin Sons of Different Mothers”. That title could aptly describe two young, Toronto Maple Leafs defensive prospects, Dimitri Yakushin and Chris Bogas. Bogas is toiling for The Michigan State Wolverines as a senior defenseman and Yakushin is learning his trade as a defenseman for the St. John’s Maple Leafs as a rookie in the AHL.
“The thing that grabs you about Dimitri’s game is his poise for the puck. Rookie defensemen in the AHL often look to give up the puck as soon as they receive it. Dimitri has that confidence that he is going to look for the right play to make. He doesn’t panic with the puck”, states Chris Schwartz, St. John’s director of media relations for the club. “He has some of the same puckhandling moxie of Tomas Kaberle”, Schwartz adds.
“He wants the puck in the tough situations, with the game on the line. His size and toughness are excellent, but his skating and puckhandling sets him apart as well”, says MSU head coach Ron Mason about his senior defenseman, Chris Bogas. “His role has changed a bit over the years at MSU”, he states. “Chris has filled the role of tough-defenseman, adding offense from the blueline and working the special teams as we have needed it. He has filled those roles very well”, Mason adds. “He jumped right into our program as a freshman and hasn’t looked back ever since”.
Yakushin was drafted 140th overall by the Leafs in the 1996 NHL entry draft, Bogas was drafted 148th that same year. Yakushin is listed at 6-3, 205 lbs., Bogas at 6-1, 205. Both are sound positional defenseman who have a physical nature to their game. Both are very good skaters as well and do like to join the rush, with Bogas at this point willing to do a bit more “jumping into the play”. Both players have good point shots as well. It is their skating, their poise with the puck and their work ethic that just might land them both an NHL job in the next few years.
Bogas has spent the past four years working his way up the ladder in the highly successful Michigan State hockey system and he will be playing in the upcoming NCAA Hockey tournament with his team facing the winner of the Colorado College/ St. Lawrence game. Bogas scored 1 goal, 20 assists as a freshman in 39 games in the 95-96 season, 7 goals, 4 assists in 40 games in 96-97, 4 goals, 10 assists in 44 games in 97-98 and has 1 goal, 12 assists in 32 games in 98-99 thus far. “Chris has a very heavy and accurate shot from the point with a quick release. He injured his wrist earlier this this season, though, which has hampered his shooting”, said Mason. “He will be able to add some offense”, he adds. “Chris has developed his game to the point where he has the capability to be an AHL defenseman right now. Who knows? He just might show Pat Quinn he belongs in the NHL next season. If the opening is there for a solid, 2-way defenseman, Chris just might be able to fill an NHL spot next year”, states Mason.
Yakushin, for the most part has taken a regular shift for St. John’s this season as a 21 year old AHL rookie. He has 2 goals, 5 assists in 58 games for the baby Maple Leafs in 98-99. “Yakushin has jumped up and become one of the Leafs’ top defensive prospects with his play this year”, said Schwartz. He seemingly has the potential to become a Curtis Leschyshyn type player in the NHL one day. The Evening Telegram even felt that Yakushin might have been a little further along the developmental ladder than Tomas Kaberle and Marek Posmyk after last season. Dimitri came out of the WHL the last two years, scoring 1 goal, 24 assists for 25 pts. in 42 games during an injury-plagued 97-98 season and scored 3 goals with 14 assists in 63 games with Edmonton of the WHL in 96-97. “He just may be a solid, 2-way defenseman in the NHL in the next year or two”, states Schwartz. “On a scale of 1-5 (5 being a can’t miss NHL prospect), I’d say the Leafs’ feel that Dimitri is a 4 following his play this season”, he adds.
When you look at the potential of these two young defensemen, you can see some further reasoning behind the Toronto Maple Leafs move of defenseman, Jason Smith at the trading deadline. One is from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, the other from Kharkiv in the Ukraine. Opposite sides of the world, but with a similar goal in mind: playing defense for an NHL club. They will be battling each other seemingly for a spot on an already crowded, youthful blueline for the up and coming Maple Leafs team. Like those “twins sons of different mothers”, one might envision them teaming together for the Toronto club somewhere in the near future. The Leafs hope they will make it so. They are two “sleeper” prospects to watch, indeed, in the Toronto system.
Sources: Michigan State Hockey Online
The Evening Telegram: May 7th, 1998: Article by Brendan McCarthy