Nashville Predators: Nick Bonino Quietly Finding His Role

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 17: Nick Bonino /

On a team full of superstars, there’s one player gradually trending up. That player is Nick Bonino, and we should rejoice.

There’s one player on the Nashville Predators we all want to see more out of and it’s Nick Bonino. To be honest, his first season in Nashville has left a lot to be desired. There is plenty of time to right that ship, and he’s modestly starting to do that. We just need more production and more involvement in scoring chances.

It’s easy to overlook players on a talented roster like the Nashville Predators. You shouldn’t have a surprised feeling when you look at the standings and see the Predators at the top. The depth of this team is ridiculous.

During the previous offseason and before the trade deadline, the Predators were active participants in making moves. Complacency after having a successful season will send you right back down to the middle of the pack if you’re not careful. The aggressive offseason signing of Bonino from the Pittsburgh Penguins came with high expectations, and rightfully so. The jury is still out on whether that moves shapes up to a be a good one, but he’s starting to make up for it.

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A slow start

Bonino’s start to his Predators career wasn’t exactly smooth. A lower-body injury from his time with Pittsburgh kept him out of the preseason. The lack of building that chemistry was a major factor in his slow start. Unfortunately, fans want instant results whenever a player is added to a team that’s already really good. Being a former member of the Penguins, who beat the Predators in the Stanley Cup, probably didn’t help matters. To be frank, Bonino has been hard to find at times.

Despite missing the preseason, Bonino did make the opening game of the regular season. Registering only one point in his first five games wasn’t ideal. There’s even more to be desired in November as Bonino had just four points. This is mostly due to being sidelined half of the month with an injury.

Most of this season we haven’t seen Bonino’s value to the Predators. If we’re expecting him to be a top-tier contributor to a Stanley Cup contender, then our expectations might be too high. I have to admit that I’m one of those critics having to learn what Bonino’s role truly is in Peter Laviolette’s system. That role is providing steady depth behind the JoFA line and the Kyle Turris line. As great as those top two lines are, you need reliable depth and Bonino anchors that.

Steady improvement

You’re starting to see more comfort in Bonino’s play over recent weeks. He looks freer and is a bigger part of the offensive flow, and he’s coming off of his most productive month in a Predators uniform. His assist numbers should spike up over the remainder of the season. He’s only at 11 assists through 52 games. It will be a huge boost for the Predators in the playoffs if he keeps trending upward.

His Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations is at 47.5, per That’s a better number than last year with Pittsburgh, but there’s room for improvement. However, I truly think his possession stats will steadily rise and be more respectable at season’s end. He fits in better on the third and fourth lines with players like Calle Jarnkrok and Scott Hartnell.

Bonino is a key player to keep an eye on leading up to the playoffs, even if he’s not as high up in the lineup as he once was. We’re lucky to have a veteran presence like Bonino so far down the roster. With the return of Mike Fisher against Vancouver, it will be interesting to see how that affects Bonino’s role. I believe he initially stays on the third line and Fisher fits in on the fourth line. That could change quickly if Fisher plays great out of the gate, and Bonino regresses backward.

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With this team shaping up into a depth nightmare for the opposition, I expect Bonino to round into form. He’ll be a huge asset in the playoffs with his experience. You need that veteran playoff experience in those grueling seven-game series. Bonino has six career game-winning goals in the playoffs. As he starts finding his niche with the Predators, look for his numbers to meet the expectations we originally had for him. Better late than never.