The Boston Bruins’ Seventh Player Award, annually doled out by the New England Sports Network to a player who exceeds expectations, is arguably the most recognizable team prize and the easiest to prognosticate.
The rest―such as the Elizabeth C. Dufresne Trophy for the best performer in home games―can only be logically debated at season’s end.
But with the training camp roster assembled and the long-awaited start to the 2012-13 NHL season approaching this weekend, it is easy enough to assess the expectations of each Bruin. Upon filtering out the multitude of mainstays whose bars cannot be set much higher than they have been in past years, there are newcomers and prospective pluggers to watch for.
Three of the award’s past five recipients―Milan Lucic, Tuukka Rask and Brad Marchand―have been rookies. The other two―David Krejci and Tyler Seguin―were professional sophomores. Prior to that, goaltender Tim Thomas won it back-to-back in 2005-06 and 2006-07, his last split NHL-AHL season and first full Boston campaign, respectively.
That trend could easily continue, or a veteran who has performed beyond his place on the depth chart in a previous season could do the same and be rewarded this time.
For at least the start, one of these players will essentially be pressed into service with the comparatively seasoned Jordan Caron out with an injury. Another will likely be asked to hang around and serve as the spare 13th forward.
In turn, regardless of whether Caron can come back and shake off his injury and his underwhelming AHL performance, somebody new is sure to be a regular among the forwards on the Boston roster. Whoever that is will have an opportunity to continue the trend of relatively fresh faces claiming the prize in question.
The primary asset the Bruins should be asking of their new blueliner is to start translating his major junior production from the point into an extra layer of formidability on their power play.
If he can deliver decent numbers in that department and handle opposing forwards in his own end without egregious difficulty, then Seventh Player accolades should hardly be out of the question.
In light of the surprising news that Adam McQuaid will be dressing for the season opener, it figures to be a contest between Hamilton and Johnson for the right to fill the last game-night roster spot. The other, at least for the start of the 2012-13 campaign, will be the seventh defenseman.
That assignment bears the expectation that they will stay physically and mentally fresh for whenever a slump, injury or illness summons them for duty.
Such an arrangement is an inherently inevitable target for scrutiny when one is looking for somebody who might step up beyond expectations.
The first-year Boston backup could follow the skate scrapings of his two predecessors―the incumbent starter Rask and the aforementioned Thomas―by polishing off his rookie year with a hunk of hardware from the team.
If recent years are any indication, Khudobin can expect to get the nod for at least one quarter of the 48-game schedule. If he reruns the output of his 2010-11 homestretch with Providence―a 9-4-1 tear―in those (give or take) dozen starts, he will have as credible a case as any of his skating mates.
Though more seasoned than his fellow preseason contenders and the award’s recent recipients, Peverley was deserving of this honor last season.
Yet he never went more than three consecutive games played without a point and had a final scoring log of 11-31-42.
Assuming he is available for all 48 scheduled contests, a final output in the mid-30s would be a reasonable request out of Peverley. Anything more than that would not exactly be stunning, but nonetheless, would be worthy of a tangible reward.