Q&A with Erie’s Brad Bonello
By Ken McKenna
In the 01-02 season, a draft-eligible player on the Erie Otters roster
faced an uphill battle in his bid to be drafted by a NHL team. Forward
Scott Dobben (now of the Ste. St. Marie Greyhounds) was overlooked in the
Central Scouting Service’s mid-term rankings, but went on to be drafted by
the Ottawa Senators in the 2002 NHL Draft. This season, another Otter,
center Brad Bonello, is in the same position that former teammate Dobben
was in last year, with Brad being overlooked in CSS’s mid-term rankings.
Brad is in his second season with the Otters, a season that has been almost the opposite of what he experienced last year during Erie’s run to the Memorial Cup tournament. The Otters have struggled to stay near the .500 mark throughout the 02-03 campaign, with the team currently being locked in a battle to earn the right to defend their OHL title.
Bonello had a good start to this season, as he was amongst the goal-scoring leaders in the OHL through the first month. The feisty pivot has notched three 4-point games so far, but his overall production has tailed off some more recently. Through 51 games, Brad has tallied 44 points (18G, 26A), to go along with 120 penalty minutes.
With his hard-nosed style of play and offensive skills, Brad certainly should be able to catch the eye of the scouts. His mouth definitely has caught the attention of opponents, which has earned Bonello a reputation as a disturber. So, while Brad may lack the ideal size (5’11″, 167 lbs.) that teams look for in a center, he more than makes up for the shortcoming with his spirit and determination.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Brad before a recent game, with the transcript of that conversation being presented below.
HF: Talk about this season for you and the team, so far. Has it met your expectations, or do you think you guys can do better?
BB: Well, with a lot of veterans coming back this year from last year’s team, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t know how to win. But, we know we have a lot of young guys that we have to teach to learn how to win. Things have been a little rough for us lately, but I think that the team is actually jelling well; to beat the #1 ranked team in Canada (Ottawa) twice is obviously a positive.
HF: For you personally, how do you think your season has gone?
BB: I think my season has gone pretty well. I wanted to do a little better than I am right now, but we still have 12 games left, so hopefully I can reach my goals that I set at the beginning of the season. I had a couple of games where I didn’t have any points, and a couple of suspensions, so I have to pick it up and reach my expectations.
HF: This is your initial draft year. Were you ranked on CSS’s mid-season report?
BB: I didn’t get ranked. I leave that in the back of my head, that people overlooked me. I don’t know if it was because of my size, or something else. Hey, it’s always there to add fuel to the fire.
HF: Last year, (former Otter) Scott Dobben wasn’t ranked at mid-season, but he was drafted in the 4th round (by Ottawa). So, there is hope.
BB: Exactly, exactly. Actually, at the beginning of the season, I said to our PR guy that I wanted to kind of duplicate what Scott Dobben did last year and hopefully get drafted in the later rounds, like Dobben did.
HF: When you’re on your game, what type of things do you do best that make you a potential draftee?
BB: I’ve been told I play similar to (Dallas prospect) Steve Ott. I like to get in the face, and stir up some stuff. I draw a lot of penalties, so my team can capitalize on the power play. I’m in your face a lot. I can score, and I play as hard as I can every shift. For me to get drafted this year, I think I’ll have to play that style of game, and show the scouts that I can get under everybody’s skin. You want me on your team, and not have to go against me!
HF: You’re from Brampton. Is that near Toronto?
BB: Yeah, it’s about half an hour south of Toronto.
HF: I assume you grew up a Maple Leafs fan, then.
BB: Actually, the Leafs were always there, but my favorite team growing up was the Pittsburgh Penguins. I loved Mario (Lemieux), so he was the main reason I liked them. I don’t play like him, but he was always great to watch. Jagr is a great player, too.
HF: Going forward, then, what do you think the team needs to do better to ensure that you make the playoffs? You’re in a tight battle right now.
BB: Definitely. I’m not sure that we’ve played good defense as a team this year. We have a number of guys that are minus players right now, so I think the main thing is to improve our defensive play, and we should be able to make the playoffs.
HF: Okay, Brad, thanks for your time. Good luck the rest of the way.
BB: Thanks a lot!