COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: Riley Nash
Countdown to camp: Riley Nash
From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2017-18 Bruins. Today: Riley Nash.
It wasn’t anything spectacular or particularly flashy in Riley Nash’s first season with the Bruins, but by the end of it, he’d done enough to be protected by the Black and Gold in the expansion draft. His two-goal game vs. the Islanders late in the season was an extremely clutch performance from a role player and Nash seemed to really get better as he got more comfortable in Boston after spending his previous four-plus NHL seasons in Carolina. Nash, 28, heads into this season ready to build on seven goals and 17 points in 81 games last season.
What Happened Last Year
It really was a tale of two halves for Nash. In the first half, Nash struggled to find his niche with the Bruins and managed just three goals and a minus-5 rating in the first 52 games. He wasn’t hurting the team with mistakes or major issues on the ice, but one could go weeks without truly noticing Nash on the ice for the Black and Gold despite playing every night. Things seemed to click in for him after the All-Star break as Nash finished with four goals and eight points in the final 28 games, including the aforementioned two-goal game vs. the Isles that helped Boston punch its playoff ticket. Nash played multiple positions on different lines up front, killed penalties and provided plenty of value after signing a nominal contract with the B’s a summer ago. Nash had a controversial moment in the playoffs when a late penalty called on him led to an overtime game-winner for the Senators in a pivotal home game at TD Garden but he also played well in the first round series vs. Ottawa.
Questions To Be Answered This Season
The biggest question for Nash is whether a year of getting acquainted with the Bruins will produce a better season in his second go-round in Boston. Nash averaged nine goals and 23 points in his previous three seasons with the Hurricanes prior to dropping off to seven goals and 17 points last season in Boston. So, there is a little more for Nash to give, and he showed in the second half that he could be ready to give it to the Bruins this season. With Dominic Moore gone to Toronto, Nash will be expected to be a veteran leader and consistent performer in a potential fourth-line role for the Black and Gold this season. They’ll need him to be strong in both halves of the season and that’s really the only thing that needs improvement from last season. Based on his contract and his role with the team, the former first-round pick should be somebody the B’s can really count on this year.
In Their Own Words
“I think I played a lot better the last quarter, third of the season, the playoffs. I’ve typically been a strong finisher, not so much a great starter. So that’s something I’ll have to address and figure out. I think I put my best foot forward later in the season. I thought for me personally, making the playoffs was huge. Gives you a taste of that. And I think it just adds to that hunger.” –Riley Nash, summing up his inconsistent season that had a strong finish.
Nash should be a fixture on the bottom six and on the penalty kill for the Bruins and will be a veteran player relied upon to perhaps pull along some younger guys in an energy-line role. A few more goals and a little more offense created would be ideal, and the expectation will be that he can play more like he did after last season’s All-Star break. Given that the Bruins thought well enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft, it’s reasonable to think the B’s may want to keep Nash around for a while if he continues to come in at the right price with his current level of productivity. He’s a pleasant guy in the room and showed how much he cares when being fully accountable after taking a tough penalty in the playoffs. There’s always room for those kinds of guys in an NHL dressing room. Nash isn’t going to make many highlight reels or p