"Put Down The Cigarette . . . And Drop Out of BU."

 

ARTHUR:

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

First, I want to remind everyone to set their Tivo's.  Notre Dame at Boston University will be televised on ESPNU tomorrow at 4:00pm PDT.   That impacts you as a Ducks fan because Anaheim properties Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri play for Boston University and Notre Dame respectively.   Check your local listings.

The rest of this post will be my prospect profile for Nick Bonino.  I should have gone with the more obvious title, "Armchair Scout: Nick Bonino," but I couldn't pass up a quality Modern Lovers quote.  Profile after the jump.

Nick Bonino attended Farmington High School, located in the school's Connecticut namesake, which borders the young forward's native Unionville.  In his junior year at Farmington, he put together a 68 goal season and led the school to its first state championship.  For his senior year, Bonino transferred to Avon Old Farms, a Conecticut prep school that would increase his visibility as an NCAA Division I recruit.  To punctuate that point, he scored 23 goals and 66 points, captained the team to the New England Division I prep championships and earned the United States Hockey Report Prep Forward of the Year honor for 2007.

Bonino's work at Avon got him drafted, but he fell to the Sharks in the 6th Round.  The primary complaints seemed to be size and speed, specifically that he didn't have much of the former and a little guy should really have more of the latter.  The assessment is a bit lazy, but you have to remember that when a scout travels to a Connecticut prep school to see a "pure goal scorer," he's looking for blistering north-south speed and a skater who brings the puck into the open areas.  That isn't Bonino's game.  He uses short bursts of speed, and he enjoys trying to hold the puck and move it into the dirty areas.  But his numbers spell "goal scorer" for a reason, and he adapts to the speed of the game rather than imposing his speed upon it, which is part of what makes him also a great defensive forward.  Unfortunately, the stigma of these early scouting reports continues to haunt Bonino, who made sure to point out that he'd gained 10 pounds and started working with a skating coach back in Connecticut this past offseason-- assurances directed at the unjustly large percentage of the hockey world that did NOT see him play for BU last season.

His freshman year with the Terriers was undoubtedly productive (he led all Hockey East rookies in goals with 16), but it was his dominant sophomore season that transformed Nick Bonino into tasty trade bait for the Sharks.  He was second only to elite prospect Colin Wilson in scoring for BU, numbers built on consistent forechecking attacks, a five point game and the only unassisted goals scored by the stacked 2009 Terriers team.  But it was his MVP performance in the Beanpot that first flashed the late game heroics he displayed in Washington D.C.

On the opening night of play in the hallowed Boston-area college tournament, BU trailed Harvard 2-0 late in the 2nd.  The tenacious second line of John McCarthy, Bonino and Brandon Yip generated the first tally with Bonino one-timing a feed from McCarthy past goaltender Matt Hoyle.  One-minute and forty-three seconds later, Bonino took a pass near the front of the crease, froze Hoyle with a fake and dished the puck into the net to bring the Terriers even with the Crimson.  On the next night, in the championship game against Northeastern, Bonino potted a shorthanded goal, following up a breakaway bid from Yip.  Miami would find Bonino and his second line just as difficult to control two months later.

You've probably seen his heroics in the last two minutes of the NCAA championship game, either on ESPN or at the top of this post.  And yes, Bonino was clutch with the net empty against the Redhawks.  He was banging away at the side of the net with Zach Cohen and then positioned himself perfectly for the one-timer that sent the game to overtime.  What you might have missed, if you didn't watch the entire tournament, is his stellar performance in the earlier rounds.  Against Ohio State, he opened scoring with a goal and an assist, setting the tone for the Terriers team to completely dominate the opposition.  And on the next night, with a minute to go in a tight 1-1 game with UNH, Bonino came streaking into the slot as BU established play in the offensive zone.  He called for the puck, got it and instead of taking the shot they gave him, he skated forward into a gauntlet of blue jerseys, deking the whole way.  He was hauled down with 45 seconds to play, drawing the call that sent BU to the Frozen Four.

I can't say enough about a kid who wants the puck when his team is down, when the game is on the line.  That's incredibly valuable, even if he didn't have good hands, great defensive positioning, sweet offensive sense and a forecheck with the persistence of a poison oak rash. 

 

Upside?

  • Tough two way center.  He welcomes contact on his skinny frame, which makes him valuable in the trenches, responsible in his own zone and right deadly around the net. 
  • His attitude toward the game speaks for itself, both in his desire to have the game on his stick and his willingness to humor those who doubt his skating ability and strength and conditioning.
  • Almost there.  He would have played in the AHL this year if the Ducks had an actual AHL affiliate.  He's close, maybe one AHL year away, maybe less with the assistance of vacancies in the depth chart.

 

Downside?

  • Breakout year on a stacked team.  Defenses had to account for multiple Terriers last year.  He'll get more attention this year, and that may tarnish some of his sheen.
  • Chemistry with Yip.  A lot of Bonino's success and scoring chances can be attributed to a revitalized Brandon Yip.  Bonino may need a tenacious forechecker (who's a hair faster) on his flank to duplicate last year's success at the professional level.
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