Nashville Predators: Is Nick Bonino Missing in Action?

Nick Bonino #13 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Nick Bonino #13 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators have started the season well. From top to bottom, players are being noticed. Except for Nick Bonino.

The Nashville Predators are off to a fine start to the 2018-19 hockey season.  With another win over a Central Division rival, the Predators have taken sole possession of first place in the Western Conference standings.  Early on, a few players have stood out whose play contributed to this hot start.  The JoFA line picked up where they left off as they lead the team in points.  Mattias Ekholm already has 2 goals and 3 assists which puts him on pace for a line of 27G/41A/68PTS.

On the other end of the spectrum, Nick Bonino is projected to finish with 14 assists and no goals. While it’s easy to base a player’s performance by their point total, that’s not the case with the Nashville Predators third line center.  Some may look at his one assist on the year and say he’s not playing well.  But there’s more than meets the eye.

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So-So Start

Bonino’s lone assist came against the Islanders on October 13th.  He created a high-danger chance taking the puck to the net and assisted on Calle Jarnkrok‘s even-strength goal.  He had another HDCF against Calgary, but nothing came of it.  Overall, Bonino’s on-ice percentages are pretty meager.  With a Fenwick-For of about 47%, it ranks 14th on the team.  His Corsi-For and Shots-For percentages are also bottom half as well.  With only three individual scoring chances, Bonino is last among Nashville Predators forwards who have played in at least four games.

After two so-so games, Bonino improved his percentages, and they peaked against Winnipeg.  However, they dropped again in the two subsequent games.  This may be a sign of what to expect from Nick Bonino.  A solid game followed by a not so good one.  Or stretches of hockey where he doesn’t put up any points.  But don’t rush to judge by his lack of offense.  Nick Bonino is not MIA, he just contributes in other ways.

On-Ice Presence

Ahead of Monday night’s game against Minnesota, would you have guessed that Nick Bonino led the Nashville Predators in +/-? Probably not.  Most of that is owed to his play at even-strength.  Bonino has been on the ice for 5 goals at even-strength and has a GF% of 83%.  Both are 7th on the team.  While he has just 7 shot attempts so far, 6 of them were on goal.  That percentage leads the Predators.  Clearly, Nick Bonino has a presence on the ice.  He’s got some bright spots to his play.  If he maintains his +/- and his shots-through percentage, it is inevitable that he’ll tack on some points.

Also, in defense of his low analytic percentages, Bonino leads Nashville Predators forwards in TOI on the penalty kill.  He is also first on the team with 58 defensive zone faceoffs.  His quality of competition being on the penalty kill and starting in the defensive zone have affected his Fenwick and Corsi percentages.  The coaching staff trusts his presence when defending the puck.

Next. Three lessons from the victory over the Wild. dark

Yes, Nick Bonino is off to slow start.  But only based on his point total. His veteran presence and how the coaches use him shows he contributes in other ways. He’s not going to finish the season without a goal.  He’s been on the ice for enough goals and sports a great shots-through percentage that he’ll increase his production very soon.