Bonino’s strong start has helped surging Canucks

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Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Kesler’s return to Vancouver is the main storyline going into tonight’s game, but of course the Ducks had to surrender a number of assets to acquire him. So while he’ll get the spotlight, this is also a chance to take a look at the other players involved in the trade and on the Canucks’ side, Nick Bonino has stood out.

After breaking out last season with 22 goals and 49 points in 77 games with the Ducks, Bonino has seven goals and eight assists in his first 19 contests in 2014-15. The 26-year-old center has been one of the Canucks’ top offensive threats along with Radim Vrbata and the Sedin twins.

“He (Bonino) is a real good offensive player, he’s got a great stick, he sees the ice real well,” said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins, per the Edmonton Sun. “He’s been good for us in that way, but he’s played well defensively for us as well. He’s not just a one-way guy, he’s been playing hard both ways.”

His strong play has helped the Canucks deal with the loss of Kesler, who is having a great campaign as well, but Bonino’s been just one part of the Canucks’ surprising 13-6-0 start to the season. With a regulation-time win tonight, Vancouver would move ahead of Anaheim in the Pacific Division standings, which is certainly not something Kesler would have predicted going into this season.

The Canucks and Ducks previously played each other on Nov. 9 in Anaheim. That contest came down to a shootout with Nick Bonino scoring the deciding goal and Ryan Kesler coming up short. We’ll see if one of them is the difference again tonight.