The acquisition of Rick Nash has been the biggest Bruins story of the second half, but it’s the other Nash that should be picking up some hardware next month. 

The Seventh Player Award is given to the Bruin who “performed beyond expectations,” and nobody is more deserving than Riley Nash. The award has strayed from its blue-collar roots in recent years — David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith are the most recent winners of the fan vote — but Nash’s season should merit a return to them. 

As a bottom-six forward, Nash signed a two-year, $1.8 million deal to come to Boston in 2016. He’s certainly outperformed that contract. If the season ended tomorrow, it’d be the best offensive output of Nash’s career (12 goals and 22 assists), but his impact has gone beyond that. 

The more responsibility Nash has been given, the higher he’s raised the bar. 

When Patrice Bergeron went down, it wasn’t David Backes or David Krejci that was bumped up to center the top line. Bruce Cassidy was confident that Nash could do it, and the veteran has proven him right. 

Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak haven’t missed a beat riding shotgun with Nash, and the Bruins are 4-0-0 since.

When Marchand scored the overtime winner for a hat trick on Tuesday night, it was Nash who started the play with a slick feed to Torey Krug. What followed was a microcosm for Nash’s season. 

Playing in a role nobody expected him in, Nash was in the background as the spotlight shone down on Marchand and hats rained over the glass. He wasn’t the center of attention, but the celebration doesn’t happen without him.

As for other candidates, Charlie McAvoy is probably the frontrunner for the award, and he’s put together an impressive rookie season. The 20-year-old defenseman has played beyond his years, but isn’t McAvoy meeting expectations rather than exceeding them?

The kid was supposed to be this good. That’s why the Bruins burned a year of his entry-level deal to drop him in the postseason lineup last spring.

McAvoy has come as advertised. Nash’s season has been more surprising.

There’s a case to be made for Matt Grzelcyk. Cut from the same cloth as Torey Krug, the 5-foot-9 defenseman was expected to spend the season in Providence, but played so well during an early season recall that the B’s couldn’t send him back down. 

However, the Charlestown native has still only suited up for 44 games, and with the trade deadline acquisition of Nick Holden, his role could be lessened moving forward.

As far as other young guns go, Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk have been pleasant surprises, too, but has either of them had had the nightly impact of Nash?

When evaluating the trust he’s built with Cassidy, consider that Nash averages more time on the penalty kill than any other Bruins forward.

Yes, he’s spent more time killing penalties than a Selke Award winner in Bergeron, and the B’s shorthanded sharpshooter, Marchand. 

Nash has become a key player for the Bruins. Nobody expected that. 

Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason.


Bruins’ Seventh Player Award Winners

Season Winner

1968–69 Ed Westfall

1969–70 John McKenzie

1970–71 Fred Stanfield

1971–72 Derek Sanderson

1972–73 Dallas Smith

1973–74 Don Marcotte/Carol Vadnais

1974–75 Terry O’Reilly

1975–76 Gregg Sheppard

1976–77 Gary Doak

1977–78 Stan Jonathan

1978–79 Rick Middleton

1979–80 Ray Bourque

1980–81 Steve Kasper

1981–82     Barry Pederson

1982–83 Pete Peeters

1983–84 Mike O’Connell

1984–85 Keith Crowder

1985–86 Randy Burridge

1986–87 Cam Neely

1987–88 Glen Wesley

1988–89 Randy Burridge

1989–90 John Carter

1990–91 Ken Hodge, Jr.

1991–92 Vladimir Ruzicka

1992–93 Don Sweeney

1993–94 Cam Neely

1994–95 Blaine Lacher

1995–96 Kyle McLaren

1996–97 Ted Donato

1997–98 Jason Allison

1998–99 Byron Dafoe

1999–00 Joe Thornton

2000–01 Bill Guerin

2001–02 Bill Guerin

2002–03 Mike Knuble

2003–04 Andrew Raycroft

2005–06 Tim Thomas

2006–07 Tim Thomas

2007–08 Milan Lucic

2008–09 David Krejci

2009–10 Tuukka Rask

2010–11 Brad Marchand

2011–12 Tyler Seguin

2012–13 Dougie Hamilton

2013–14 Reilly Smith

2014–15 David Pastrnak

2015–16 Brad Marchand

2016–17 David Pastrnak

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