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AC Archives: Love Him or Hate Him, Nick Bonino Has Earned His Spot (Feb'13)

Nick Bonino is just one of several players who has helped the Ducks to one of their hottest starts ever, but has been overshadowed at times by other names as the entire roster battles for the spotlight.

"Did I do that?" - Nick Bonino, doing his best Urkel impression after making the Kings look stupid.
"Did I do that?" - Nick Bonino, doing his best Urkel impression after making the Kings look stupid.

[Ed. Note: This article was written by Kyle back in February. I felt it was appropriate to re-run seeing as how the Ducks benefited immediately from Bonino coming back in the lineup versus the Oilers; kid had a two-point night, the only player with multiple points. - JN]

Ducks fans probably remember a trade back in 2009 that sent away fan-favorites Travis Moen and Kent Huskins in exchange for what felt like nothing at the time. And by remember I mean hold it as one of the reasons for wanting Bob Murray's head on a plate.

Moen, a much-beloved part of the 2007 Cup winning squad, was on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent due for a pay raise, and Huskins was proving himself to be a talented depth defenseman, making this trade look like a horrible deal. On top of that, it sent them to the San Jose Minnows. There was no winning ... or so it seemed.

What we may not have realized at the time was what we were getting in return. Included in that package was a sixth round selection and college sophomore at Boston University named Nick Bonino, who would finish that year in Hockey East with 50 points in 44 games, Frozen Four All-Tournament Team honors, and a National Championship.

Now after waiting another three years or so, Bonino is finally delivering on the promise he showed as a collegiate athlete, and in turn is making that deal with San Jose look a lot sweeter (perhaps even more so when you look at how bare the Sharks' prospect cupboard is these days).

It's easy to give the man credit after scoring his first career hat trick against the most-hated of rivals Los Angeles Kings, and I'm not going to take away anything from that stellar performance. What I am here to say is Bonino's play has been stellar this season, even when he hasn't been on the scoresheet.

In fact, I would even argue that while he's been moved around the lineup a fair amount, Bonino has quietly been one of the most solid and consistent depth players on an Anaheim team that's started garnering trace amounts of national attention. (PS- Can someone please tell sportswriters that "Mighty" puns are officially completely washed up and should never be used again? Thanks.)

While Anaheim's penalty kill hasn't been much to write home about this season (26th in the NHL at an abysmal 72.7%), Bonino and fellow forwards Andrew Cogliano and Saku Koivu have stood out with their aggressive pressure and selfless shot blocking.

In fact, Anaheim's failure to break in any of the eight times they've been shorthanded against the Sharks this season has greatly contributed to San Jose's tumble down the Power Play rankings from first to seventh.

Likewise, Bonino and Koivu are both drastically improved in the faceoff circle this season, with Bonino registering in at 48.6%. While that may not seem great, Bruce Boudreau has shown confidence in the Hartford, Connecticut native by sending him out to take key draws, particularly in the defensive zone.

Offensively, Bonino has held his own in just about any line Boudreau's roulette wheel has placed him on, whether it be alongside Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan or Matt Beleskey and Brad Staubitz.

It's because of this kind of versatility that the Ducks management and coaching staff finally allowed Bonino to change his jersey number from 63 to 13 this season, a sign that he's going to be sticking around for the long haul.

Perhaps the best part is I can only see Bonino getting better now that he's with the squad full-time. He's finding his role as a depth forward, and lately his play has been a testament to that. Going beyond his 5 points in 8 games (as of writing) that have contributed to the explosion of depth scoring Anaheim has received this year, Bonino has looked comfortable on the ice in just about all situations. No longer does a shift with good momentum go to waste by a depth line that can't keep the pressure on, largely thanks to Bonino amongst many others (*cough cough* Dan Winnik *cough*).

While I've seen a lot of criticism of his play hovering in the Twitterverse, there's a definite reason Coach Boudreau has stood by his young forward. And with the kind of play he's shown over the last few big tests, the Ducks will be more than happy to have him along for the ride. I know I am.