Less than two weeks ago, Nick Bonino
was living the life of a normal college kid, waking up for classes at Boston University, taking notes during lectures and hanging out with 18-23-year-olds. No word on whether his cupboard was filled with Top Ramen, but the likelihood is probably strong.
|“It’s incredible,” said Bonino of his first career goal, assisted by Selanne. “I grew up playing him on NHL videogames and now my first goal is assisted by him. That is something you can’t really script. It’s unbelievable.” |
My how things can quickly change. Signed to his first professional contract by the Ducks on March 21, the 21-year-old center scored his first NHL goal (in his second career game) last night during a 3-1 victory over the Stars at Honda Center. It came on a second period power play and the assist came from none other than Teemu Selanne
, who happened to be honored before the game for recording his 600th career goal on the very day Bonino signed with the club.
“It’s incredible,” said Bonino, who was four when Selanne scored his first career goal on Oct. 8, 1992 at San Jose. “I grew up playing him on NHL videogames and now my first goal is assisted by him. That is something you can’t really script. It’s unbelievable.”
The Sharks are the team that originally drafted Bonino back in the sixth round (173rd overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. A shrewd trade deadline day move last season by Ducks Executive VP/GM Bob Murray brought him to Anaheim (along with goaltender Timo Pielmeier) in exchange for veterans Travis Moen and Kent Huskins, who were due to be unrestricted free agents.
While fans were saddened to see the departures of those players – parts of the 2007 Stanley Cup team – Murray immediately let it be known that the Ducks faithful would someday be pleased with the hot commodity the club was getting in Bonino.
“What you have to understand is we think we got one of the top young prospects in hockey in Nick Bonino
,” said Murray on the day of the trade last season. “There is no way I’m dealing with (Sharks GM) Doug Wilson unless I get this guy. I can’t emphasize enough how good we think this player is.”
|“I just want to learn what I can from everyone and see how guys prepare, how guys play,” Bonino said. “I’ll keep working hard if I’m in the lineup playing or not. It’s a good taste of the NHL for training camp next year.” |
Hearing those comments and speaking to Murray personally, along with Ducks Senior VP of Hockey Operations David McNab, helped calm Bonino after the swap. “It’s weird being traded, especially in college, but they were pretty receptive and glad to have me,” he said. “It felt good. That was something that eased my worries.”
Soon after the trade, Bonino helped Boston University to its fifth NCAA championship in men’s hockey (and first since 1995) in April. Down by two goals to Miami of Ohio in the final minute of the title game, Bonino had an assist and the game-tying goal within 42 seconds to miraculously force OT. They would prevail for the 4-3 win to the title.
“Everything went right,” Bonino said. “We had a pretty talented team. Five guys (Bonino – Anaheim; Colin Wilson – Nashville; Brandon Yip – Colorado; Matt Gilroy – New York Rangers; John McCarthy – San Jose) have already played in the NHL just from that team. It’s tough to lose when you have a team like that.”
Unlike the other four, Bonino returned to BU in 2009-10 for his junior season. He led the Terriers with 38 points in 33 games before their season came to an abrupt end on March 19 with a loss in the Hockey East semifinals.
Two days after the defeat, he inked a two-year entry-level deal with the Ducks. Up with the big club (with other recent college signees Jake Newton and Rob Bordson), Bonino was unsure if he would see any ice time. But when Ryan Getzlaf
tweaked his tender left ankle again on March 24 at Vancouver, the rookie was thrust into the lineup at Edmonton two nights later.
“It’s a pretty good whirlwind,” Bonino said. “You leave college and you’re playing two games in the NHL already within a week and a half. I’m just grateful that they brought me in and gave me an opportunity. I’m happy that we won these last two games.”
|“It’s a pretty good whirlwind,” Bonino said. “You leave college and you’re playing two games in the NHL already within a week and a half. I’m just grateful that they brought me in and gave me an opportunity. I’m happy that we won these last two games.” |
Career game No. 2 for Bonino turned out even better for Bonino than his league debut. After just missing out on a couple of chances early against the Stars (including one shot that bounced off the crossbar) Bonino punched in a feed from Selanne on the power play in the second period for his first career goal.
A few moments after, TV cameras caught the veteran and rookie sharing a moment on the bench. “He said he stills remembers his first goal,” said Bonino of the Finnish Flash. “I told him I’d probably remember this one as long as I’m playing and as long as I live too.”
Suddenly far removed from his days as a student on the sprawling Boston University campus along the Charles River, Bonino is now sharing a locker room with some of the most talented players in the league, including some future Hall-of-Famers. With seven games remaining on the regular season docket, the rookie hopes to utilize that time by soaking up as much knowledge as he can from his new teammates.
“I just want to learn what I can from everyone and see how guys prepare, how guys play,” Bonino said. “I’ll keep working hard if I’m in the lineup playing or not. It’s a good taste of the NHL for training camp next year.”