Written by, Austin Tocco GZ Sports Reporter:
I am not too sure that many Penguins fans would have agreed with Jim Rutherford trading Brandon Sutter to the Vancouver Canucks for Nick Bonino on that hot summer day of July 28, 2015, but I bet they are satisfied now. Nick Bonino centered the third line throughout most of the 2015 season but also found himself on the second line when Malkin went down due to injury. Bonino I would say had an average regular season, not posting the numbers that former Penguin Brandon Sutter did but he got the job done. Now the post-season was a different story, Bonino led the way for the Penguins top offensive line and contributed in more ways that I could have ever imagined. Bonino found himself centering the best line in hockey alongside Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel. I do not think that anyone would have thought to put these three together and thanks to Mike Sullivan, the group meshed extremely well and were effective the entire post-season. The scary part about this line is the fact that they were listed as Pittsburgh’s third line offense, think about that for a second. The speed that this line had in Kessel and Hagelin opened so many doors for center-man Bonino which allowed him to excel as a player and as a person. I think it is safe to say that Bonino will be centering this line yet again next year. No one really knew about Bonino before he came to Pittsburgh last year because he played his entire professional career in the Western Conference. We never really got to see the Canucks play so not knowing who you traded one of your best players (Brandon Sutter) was risky in the fans eyes. Bonino did not disappoint as he was a major offensive weapon for the Penguins this post-season.
The Hartford, Connecticut native Bonino was a major key to the Penguins success offensively. What really sets Bonino above most is his work ethic and his hockey smarts. You have to work hard and grind if you want to stay in this league. For being a 3rd line kind of guy, he provides needed depth that the Penguins were lacking in years past. He will put up appropriate numbers for a 3rd liner and will provide the team with energy up and down the ice. The 6 foot 1 inch center is also another key penalty killer for the Penguins. His head is on a swivel on the ice and will do anything in his power to retrieve the puck and dump it into the opposing team’s zone. Bonino’s passing is another attribute the Penguins were searching for last off-season. Obviously playing alongside Hagelin and Kessel who possess the ability to skate much faster than most NHL players, getting the puck to them was going to be key in the line’s success. As soon as Bonino got the puck in his own end, his head immediately went to the wings looking for a quick breakout for Phil or Carl. This pushed the tempo of the Penguins style of play and ultimately changed the way the Penguins played the game. Bonino also posted his highest percentage of face-offs won in a season, winning 50.4% of the draws during the 2015-16 season. His highest since coming into the league with the Anaheim Ducks in 2009. Bonino is an asset to the Penguins and will be for years to come.
Nick Bonino is definitely someone that injury prone, having missed 19 games last year which took a lot of depth out of the lineup. The NHL season is 82 games which seems like a lot, but when a player is missing 19 of them, it can make or break a season. If Bonino can stay healthy for all of next year, look for the Penguins to be contender yet again. Nick Bonino could also score more goals during the regular season. The regular season games are mostly won by 1 or 2 goals, if Bonino add a few more to that total more games will be won. Brandon Sutter was putting up roughly 20 goals a year, Bonino should be doing the same. If Bonino can duplicate his playoff performance next year, expect him to be a 20+ scorer.
2016 Statistics + Playoffs:
+/- : +22
Bonino will be in a Penguins uniform until at least until the conclusion of the 2016-17 season making $2,100,000. He will be set to become an unrestricted free agent before the 2017-18 season.
Overall Rating: A-