In praise of Nick Bonino

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There are a number of reasons why the Anaheim Ducks have won 17 of their last 18 games — outstanding goaltending from Jonas Hiller, quality defensive work from Cam Fowler and consistent scoring from the Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf duo, to name a few.

But there’s one other key contributor that’s flying under the radar — Nick Bonino.

Bonino, the club’s 25-year-old depth center, is in the midst of a breakout campaign. He has 13 goals and 33 points through 48 games — trailing only Getzlaf and Perry in points — and is the team’s second most-active faceoff man.

“He’s done a lot of great things,” Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau told the O.C. Register. “To me, I never worry about wherever I put him … whether he scores five goals or 30 goals.

“There was always something about Nick that you knew you could trust when you put him on the ice.”

According to the Register, Boudreau expected Bonino — making $700,000 this season, locked in for three more years at $1.9 million per — to score 10-15 goals this season, and finish with 40-50 points.

At the time of writing, Bonino is on pace for a career-high 22 goals and 54 points.

To call this type of production a surprise would be fair. Bonino didn’t have much of a body of work coming into this season, never appearing in more than 50 games in a season and never scoring more than 18 points. A quality scorer at Boston University and with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, Bonino is only now finding equal success at the NHL level, thanks to his ability to win puck battles and make plays on the man advantage (where he’s feasted this year, leading Anaheim with 11 PP assists).

“He’s got a dogged determination, which I think is really good,” Boudreau explained. “And at the same time, he slips under the radar because no one looks at Nick Bonino when they’re looking at our team.”