Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Looking ahead: Nick Bonino

Could Avon Old Farms center and co-captain Nick Bonino be the sniper BU has been seeking since, well, Chris Drury graduated?

The Terriers had this past weekend off, but 2007 recruit Bonino (see McKeen’s Q&A article) was busy doing what he does best—scoring goals and setting up teammates—as he led the Winged Beavers to their record 6th NEPHISA championship. Bonino had a hand in all three Avon goals in a 3-0 title game victory over Belmont Hill, scoring twice and assisting on the other. He scored the game-winner on a goal-mouth scramble and closed out the scoring with a strong individual effort described in The Boston Globe (and reminiscent of Steve Thornton’s unassisted goal in the 1995 national championship game against Maine):

The last hurrah came with five minutes left in the game. In what seemed like an instant, Bonino controlled a faceoff in the Belmont Hill zone, then slid the puck between the legs of a defender and created an open alley to the net. He fired a gloveside shot that beat Gedman, who barely had time to react to the sequence.

"That was Bonino at his best," [Coach John] Gardner said. "He's a magician with the puck."

Gardner also told New England Hockey Journal "Nick can snipe, but he's so creative with the puck and without the puck.”

His 3-3-6 line in three post season games lifted his season’s total to team-leading 23-45-68, good for second overall in New England Prep hockey. Last year, he also led Avon with 25-30-56 and the previous year, he set a Connecticut high school record with 68 goals in 24 games for Farmington.

Sniper and puckhandling skills, along with great vision, are his strengths. A year ago, a post on the McKeen’s site described Bonino as “A pure goal scorer .. very gifted offensively - can put it in the net, make a beautiful pass or stickhandle through multiple defenders .. excellent one-on-one or setting up another player .. despite his average size, he can also play a physical game and doesn't let the rough play knock him off his game “

Co-MVP and top scorer at last spring’s Hockey Night in Boston All Scholastic event, Nick received a “Best Pro Prospect” award at the 2006 HNIB’s Major Showcase in the summer (see photo).

A source close to BU has compared his hands to Chris O’Sullivan’s and another established talent evaluator recently remarked that "if his skating matched his hands and stick skills -- he can really shoot it -- he would be a first round pick in June's draft."

Skating is the perceived weakness in his skill set and the reason he was ranked #117 by Central Scouting in its midyear evaluation, rather than in the top 30. A USCHO poster familiar with Bonino’s game posted this week:

“Yeah, there is some doubt about his skating, most people consider him slow, I know that over the past year he has been working with a hockey specific trainer that also works with[ex Lowell defenseman Ron] Hainsey from the Canadians, and several other players who are in the Connecticut area in the off season to work on his quickness, he is solid on his skates, and what he lacks speed wise forwards backwards, he more than makes up laterally, fastest kid I have seen with the puck move side to side around people, also what he lacks in speed he makes up for in vision on the ice, hockey knowledge, and the ability to almost always be in the right spot.”

Of course, Bonino is working hard to improve his strength and skating, as noted in the McKeen’s Q&A article linked above. And when he arrives at BU, he’ll get considerable attention from BU strength and conditioning guru Mike Boyle, who will put to good use the 50 yard straightaway sprint track inside the Agganis Arena training facility. If Boyle can duplicate the improvement in speed he achieved with Mike Pandolfo, Terrier fans can look forward to a dynamic player who'll frequently find the back of the net and make his linemates look good, too.

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