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 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Riley
It was clear at the end of last season that the Bruins were still looking for answers on their fourth line, and they hope they’ve found them with some incumbent players (Tyler Randell) and some newcomers like Riley Nash and Dominic Moore. Nash was a bit of an under-the-radar signing on July 1, but he could become a useful player with some offensive upside for a Bruins team that got next-to-nothing, scoring-wise, from their energy line last season.
What Happened Last Year
The former first-round pick has averaged 9 goals and 18 points over the last three years as a bottom-six forward for the Carolina Hurricanes, and he was right along those career lines with 9 goals and 22 points in 64 games for the 'Canes last season. He’s good-sized at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he averaged 16 minutes of ice time per game two years and has topped out at 10 goals and 25 points as seasonal highs. The 27-year-old certainly isn’t going to be a superstar by any means, but Nash has shown over the last three years that he can be a steady force on the fourth line who can help a team with his consistency and hustle. While clearly a fourth-line type, Nash isn’t a bruiser as indicated by his 18 penalty minutes in 64 games last season.
Questions To Be Answered This Season
The question of “fit” is probably the biggest one, as the Bruins have way too many centers right (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner, David Backes, Dominic Moore, Noel Acciari and Nash). The signing of Moore, in particular, was a head-scratcher with Nash already in the fold, but perhaps general manager Don Sweeney wanted to avoid the situation of last year when he gave up valuable draft picks for Lee Stempniak at the trade deadline after declining to sign him back in September. Nash was, by all accounts, steady for Carolina last season, but one thing to watch is his minus-19 mark over the last four seasons. He seems to be a decent, hustling fourth liner, but he’ll need to improve the plus-minus if he wants to stay in Claude Julien’s good graces.
In Their Words
“We went out to identify a primary target in David Backes as a center, right-wing candidate. He provides depth and balance to our lineup, as did Riley Nash.”
-- Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, addressing the signing of Riley Nash to a free agent contract on July 1.
Nash was a regular performer over the last few years in Carolina, but he wasn’t exactly somebody who popped out to the casual observer during the Hurricanes' matchups with the Bruins. He’s a strong, consistent veteran who carved out a bottom-six niche for himself with the 'Canes, and sufficiently impressed the Bruins enough to earn himself a contract on the first day of free agency. The question of fit is probably the biggest one heading into training with Nash, Moore and Acciari all legitimate candidates to be the fourth-line center. However, all of them are also candidates to slide over to the wing. Since they’re all signed to NHL contracts, the assumption is the Bruins are relatively confident both Nash and Moore are going to make the team, or confident they’ll clear through waivers should a trip to Providence be in the offing. As much as anybody else, however, Nash will get a chance to show exactly what he can do in training camp surrounded by a new coach and a group of new teammates.