Nashville Predators: Bonino Settled in After Early Setbacks

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 17: Nick Bonino /

It took some time, but the Nashville Predators’ largest offseason signing, Nick Bonin, proved to be a valuable player last season.

It was the largest offseaon move the team made last season. Adding a free agent center from a Stanley Cup winning team seemed prudent. It didn’t start that way. Nick Bonino overcame early-season setbacks in his first season with the Nashville Predators.

After signing as a free agent last year–and leaving the repeat champion Pittsburgh Penguins–he settled in nicely as the season went on.  His experience, defensive skill, and timely scoring chances provided bottom-line balance to a stacked Nashville Predators roster.

Unlucky Start

When Bonino jumped ship from the Penguins last year, he was still nursing a fractured tibia suffered from a blocked P.K. Subban shot in the Stanley Cup finals.  This caused him to miss the preseason and any chance to form on-ice chemistry with his new teammates.  He healed in time to start the season on opening night, and he scored his first Predators goal in his third game.  But five games in, he suffered another lower-body injury.  Bonino needed a month to recover, further delaying his chance to shine in gold.  He scattered a handful of points in each of the first three months of play.

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Where Bonino Succeeds

As Adam Vingan of the Tennessean noted, the Nashville Predators “started to use Bonino properly” as the new year rolled around.  Instead of forcing aspirations of a second-line center onto Bonino, the Predators utilized him where he has already found success–as a leader of the bottom lines.  His point total in February and March were two times more than the totals he had in the early months.

Bonino scored all of his 25 points while on even strength, which helps the coaching staff know where to play him. He was efficient with his shot selection, and it showed in his shot percentage. Bonino’s 16.4 shot percentage on even strength was first on the team.  Overall, he had 83 shots on the season and finished with a 14.46 S%. The total was fifth on the team and a personal best.    His 46 high-danger chances were 7th on the team–a good value for your third-line center.

Defensive Skill

While Bonino certainly adds some scoring depth at center for the Nashville Predators, his defensive skill is the most valuable aspect of his game.  The team obviously values his experience at the face-off circle.  Sixty-seven percent of the time Bonino took his faceoffs in the defensive zone.  The numbers spoke for themselves as he finished with a 54 FO%, a career high.

He’s nifty with his stick in other ways too.  He led the team with 64 takeaways.  That total was good for 23rd in the entire league.  Bonino doesn’t mind using his body either.  He blocked 72 shots this year, which was 2nd among Nashville forwards.

Final Thoughts

The Nashville Predators signed Nick Bonino to a 4 year, $16.4 million contract.  After a season under his belt, Bonino showed his value with his defensive capabilities and timely scoring.  His experience allows him to be a leader on the 3rd and 4th lines.  With that said, as a defensive forward, it is vital to control the puck and limit scoring chances against.  Nick Bonino’s on-ice numbers in categories like Corsi-for, Goals-for, and High-Danger Chances for were all fairly low.  It shows in his plus-minus at +4.  Basically, he accounts for as many points scored as he gave up.

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These low numbers are likely attributed to his time on the penalty kill, so not too much weight should be placed on them.  With more years of experience with his new team, Bonino should be capable of improvement.  The injuries and lack of chemistry hurt him initially, but he settled in as the season went on.  Overall grade: B-