Who’s Been Better so far, Ryan Kesler or Nick Bonino?

Analyzing offseason trades just a month into a new season isn’t always the most productive, but there’s always a lot to discuss with the more divisive deals from this past summer. One of such was the Vancouver Canucks sending Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Bonino, Lucas Sbisa and a first round pick that turned out to be Jared McCann.

Sbisa and McCann were added value for Vancouver because the two centerpieces of the deal were Nick Bonino and Ryan Kesler, with each impressing on their new teams so far.

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

The two players will now be linked because of this trade, so which player has boasted a better skill set and has a better outlook with his new team going forward?

Nick Bonino or Ryan Kesler – Who Boasts the Better Skill Set?

For Vancouver Canucks fans it’s hard not to keep an eye on this stat, especially since most fans seem to perceive Kesler as being selfish for quitting on their beloved Canucks.

But it’s still only November and while Bonino has been productive, he may lack in the skills department to keep up production wise with Kesler.

One of the bigger disparities between the two is size and nasty-ness. Kesler is 6’2 and 208lbs while Bonino is 6’1 and only 196lbs. That isn’t that big of size difference, but the way Kesler plays in comparison to Bonino, size does seem to matter.

Kesler is known for being a tad salty as well as for his drive to take on and beat everyone one on one. Kesler gets in the dirty areas more often and even though Bonino tries, he is more of a set up man. Kesler’s physicality is a big strength in the defensive zone as well, and while Bonino is a respectable defender, he is not Selke material at the moment.

But now we come to a key distinction between the two that leans towards Bonino’s favour: playing off of line mates. Ryan Kesler was pretty much the entire second line in Vancouver for much of his career, so he probably developed his attitude because he had to do a lot himself. Bonino came from a deep Anaheim squad and because he had players around him that wanted the puck, Bonino utilizes his line mates more effectively. Bonino, Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows have developed a quick chemistry and are playing a very cohesive style of hockey.

Kesler is a bigger body and more skilled goal scorer that provides more headaches for an opposing team’s defense than Bonino does, but Bonino has a deceptively good shot and enough skill to be a productive top 6 forward.

Ryan Kesler’s and Nick Bonino’s Surrounding Cast

It’s hard to compare players without addressing the surrounding context. In regards to Nick Bonino and Ryan Kesler, this context is extremely important.

Anaheim is in a win now mind set and a proven veteran in Ryan Kesler was seen as the missing piece to the Stanley Cup puzzle for the Ducks. Kesler was supposed to provide depth on the second line, and so far this promise has been something of a mixed bag.

Nick Bonino hockey player
Nick Bonino has been seeing some increased ice-time as of late, but he will need to show consistency before he is added to lineups in fantasy leagues. (Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE)

Kesler got off to a hot start, but hasn’t scored since Oct 22, a 6 game stretch. More alarming, however, is that a common theme of Kesler’s career has arisen, which is that he seems to be the sole driving force of Anaheim’s second line. Of Anaheim’s 36 goals so far, the second line with Andrew Cogliano and Devante Smith-Pelly has 7 of them, with Kesler potting 3 and Smith-Pelly potting a few of his short handed or on the top line.

Nick Bonino’s second line has been slightly better than Kesler’s, as the Canucks second unit has 10 of the team’s 43 goals, with Bonino potting 6.

Since the player’s line’s production is similar, how we perceive this production depends on context. Kesler was brought in to alleviate some pressure off of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, which, despite his production so far, Kesler does. Anaheim’s lineup is better with Kesler than without him and the team is in first place in the league at the moment.

Nick Bonino is only 26, and is on pace for a career year in points, which follows his ascending point production throughout his career. For a team looking to get younger and more skilled, this trend bodes well for Vancouver.

Bonino has been better so far this season, but Ryan Kesler is the superior all around player, which levels expectations a tad. I doubt either team, however, is overly upset with where each player is suiting up this season.

7 thoughts on “Who’s Been Better so far, Ryan Kesler or Nick Bonino?”

  1. Additional elements to consider:

    – Kesler’s reckless play eventually results in injury and takes him out of the lineup or makes him less effective.

    – Kesler whines and dives and, from a guy who usually plays hard, it earns him disrespect and affects the way referees call the game.

    – Kesler’s me-first style didn’t enhance team chemistry, something the Linden/Benning/Desljardin regime believes to be important.

    – Players doing good works and helping sell NHL hockey in the community has contributed to Canucks’ commercial success. Kesler did far less than he could have done.

    • That production difference is only what the two lines are on pace for, which I think will even out towards the end of the season.

  2. Good read but you need to consider Kesler’s potential for injury as well to make it a complete piece. While he will play injured he is often much less effective. Something we saw often in Vancouver.

    For now Bonino has taken the sting out of Kesler’s decision to handcuff the Canuck’s during the trade. He is better at using his linemates, which makes the 2nd line more effective than Kelser and his one and done rush down the ice.

    • Great point that totally slipped my mind. I also love watching Bonino play off of his teammates. John Garrett mentioned how Bonino’s first goal last night looked as though he was playing with the Sedins, which is such a positive comparison.

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