Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
He was beaten by a post and turned away on the doorstep twice, but Nick Bonino would not be denied. In just his second NHL game, the Ducks' rookie put a bouncing puck past Kari Lehtonen on the power play. He's made an immediate impact, but then again, he's also played more marquee ice time than kids typically see under Randy Carlyle (with the possible exception of Dan Sexton).
Daniel, you and I have always had a favorable opinion of Bonino-- mine actually based on seeing him semi-regularly --but now that you've seen him in action in a Ducks sweater, what do you think of Nick Bonino?
Well, he has had a fantastic debut so far. I realize that assessment is based on two games, but the kid doesn't seem to be over his head at all. He's keeping up with Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, and he's generating scoring opportunities. He also has a knack for finding the puck on the doorstep. As far as I'm concerned, in terms of offense, the kid has been as good as you've advertised. He's certainly capable of being the pivot on a second line, but if we manage to bring back Koivu, he can also center a great third line.
Of course, not everything about Bonino's game has been wonderful. While he doesn't lose his man in the defensive zone, he doesn't finish his check either. He's had a few opportunities to finish along the boards and take his check out of the play, but he let him get away and reset in the offensive zone. He's responsible in his own end, but I think Bonino needs to improve the physical side of his game to make it a full season on a Carlyle team. Still, it's been a promising start.
Well, I'm going to agree that there's some value to the obligatory check. I admired it in Dan Sexton's game, but then he stopped and didn't get scratched for it, so I'm assuming it's not as important to Carlyle as it used to be. And I'm not really worried about Bonino becoming physical once he gets settled. I've seen him not only finish guys but put a nice elbow into them while doing it. Removing the NCAA cage only makes that play more effective.
I think Bonino is well on his way to proving that he can be dropped directly into the NHL. It looks like he'll have his poise and his playmaking ability at the next level, and those were the skills that made him a key contributor to an NCAA championship team. But the best part of his potential immediate impact is that the naysayers can now eat their words. The sixth-round center that a lazy scouting report in 2006 declared a skinny poor skating forward looks pretty good out there.
I wish I could say that this is why people should watch college hockey. Because they're missing the Sexton's and Bonino's of the world, and because they're liable to sound as foolish as the GM's that pass on these kids-- GM's that also don't watch college hockey and seem to have little interest in players headed there. But, actually, I cherish these moments, when Tim Burke and I can look around the hockey world and laugh and laugh.