Perhaps the player that has been the most pleasant surprise on the Nashville Predators so far this season has been Nick Bonino.
Nick Bonino has brought stability and efficient production to the third line for the Nashville Predators. The question weighing on many minds is can he keep this pace up with 59 games left in the regular season?
Bonino currently is tied with Filip Forsberg for the team lead in goals with ten. That number is propelled up from a hat trick he had in an October 29th win over the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s making a case for himself as a critical piece of the bottom six for the Predators.
What’s really admirable about Bonino’s resurgence is all of the criticism he was facing over the offseason. Many were saying he was expendable and just trade bait. In a similar position as Kyle Turris was, but Bonino has flipped that around and been one of the most valuable forwards on the team.
Where he’s excelling
Obviously his goal total is way ahead of pace. He’s on pace to finish with 30-plus goals. It would be a total shock if he keeps this pace going and finishes with over 30 goals. Let’s check out his most recent goal in the win over the Blues, which was a laser of shot to beat Jake Allen:
How crazy will it be if Bonino ends up being near the top of the team’s lead in goals alongside Forsberg? Anyone who predicted that needs to start picking my lottery numbers for me.
His career high in this department was set all the way back in 2013-14 with Anaheim when he had 22 goals. It’s safe to say he has a high probability of breaking that personal best. If he does, what a bonus that would be for the Predators as they probably weren’t expecting him to be one of their top goal scorers.
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With that comes his extremely high shooting percentage that’s currently over 20 percent. He’s never had a shooting percentage above 15 percent, and I’d expect that 20 percent number to come back down closer to his career average as the season progresses.
His possession numbers look great as well. He has a Corsi for percentage of 56.4, which is way above his normal percentage that’s been in the mid to upper-40’s for most of his career. Again, he’s really elevated his level of play this season in some important categories.
There’s other categories where Bonino is performing above his career averages like points per game (0.65), shots per game (2.13) and faceoff percentage (54.9). He’s not just scoring goals at higher rate than probably expected, but he’s doing very well in many other categories too.
Can he keep it up?
If he keeps up these career-high numbers, it’s going to do wonders for the Predators’ hopes of climbing back towards the top of the division race. He’s vital to the team’s depth and stability. He’s making Rocco Grimaldi better playing together on the third line.
You can argue that the third line has been the most reliable in the entire lineup. Who would’ve thought that heading into the season? But can he really keep it up?
History would say that Bonino will regress back down to his career averages, which aren’t terrible. He had 35 points last season while only missing one regular season game. He’s definitely proven to be a durable player in the lineup.
The way Bonino has seem ultra-focused and determined to help this team win has been impressive. It tells me we don’t have to worry about him slipping up or losing focus. This has me confident that he will set some new career-highs and continue to be very valuable to the third line of the Predators.
Maybe he doesn’t finish on his current pace of goal scoring, but I’m not going to be surprised if he gets well into the 20’s in goals and keeps that third line highly productive. I love the chemistry he’s built with Grimaldi. The other spot on that line has changed around some but my thought is to keep Craig Smith in that spot.
If Bonino keeps playing at this incredible pace, the Predators will have to figure out what they want to do with him in the both the short-term and long-term future. He has one more year left on his current deal. Do you continue to explore trade partners to get top-four defenseman, or do you begin thinking about keeping him past next season?
I love making predictions so I’m going to give you mine on where Bonino finishes. Assuming he doesn’t miss any long period of time from injury or anything else, I’m going with him finishing with 23 goals and finishing with one of his best all-around seasons of his career. And at 31-years-old no less. Pretty incredible.