3 Bruins Who Deserve the 2022-23 7th Player Award

It’s safe to say that the Boston Bruins have been the biggest surprise in the NHL this season. Expected to struggle at the beginning of the season missing three key players, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Brad Marchand, recovering from offseason surgeries and there were questions as to how they would be able to stay within an Eastern Conference playoff berth until they were fully healthy.

They survived the tough stretch to the beginning of the season and are on pace to capture home-ice advantage throughout their stay in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a league-high 113 points. They have been one of the top teams in the league this season because of several players that have stepped up and gone above and beyond their expectations. As the season winds down, it’s almost time to hand out the NESN 7th Player Award, handed out to the player that has gone above and beyond expectations this season. Here are three candidates to take home the award in April.

Pavel Zacha

There were not many changes to the Bruins roster last summer from the one that skated off the ice after losing Game 7 of the first-round series to the Carolina Hurricanes last May. General manager (GM) Don Sweeney made one move on the opening day of free agency and it wasn’t through a signing, but a trade when he acquired Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Erik Haula (from ‘Devils trade Pavel Zacha to Bruins for Erik Haula, The Athletic, July 13, 2022). What a deal this has turned out to be.

Pavel Zacha Boston Bruins
Pavel Zacha, Boston Bruins (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Zacha has been a player that has been on Sweeney’s radar at previous trade deadlines, but he was finally able to land him last July. Zacha has been a tremendous addition to the Bruins lineup, slotting in perfectly on the second line next to David Krejci and David Pastrnak. In 70 games this season, the sixth overall pick of the 2015 Entry Draft has already set a career-high in goals (18), assists (30), and points (48), and he has a plus/minus of plus-25.

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Zacha provides first-year coach Jim Montgomery with a lot of flexibility to be able to slide into the middle at center and he has been a key contributor to the second power-play unit. He has been a huge addition to the Black and Gold this season and in the future in the top-six.

Trent Frederic

The Bruins have been very patient with Trent Frederic and his development over the last two seasons, but that patience has paid off this season and paid off in a big way. After taking small strides last season, Frederic has been a totally different player in 2022-23 and he has solidified the third line.

Trent Frederic Boston Bruins
Trent Frederic, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In 67 games, the 29th overall pick of the 2016 Entry Draft has career-highs with 16 goals and 12 assists for 28 points while recording a plus-26 in the bottom-six of the lineup. He has got to the front of the net with regularity this season and it’s paying off. On the recent five-game road trip, he scored a goal off a pass from newly acquired Tyler Bertuzzi against the Chicago Blackhawks and then opened the scoring against the Winnipeg Jets when he again got to the front of the net and was able to redirect a pass past Connor Hellebuyck. The mixture of his physical play, with his strong offensive zone work and offensive touch, has been a welcomed sight for the restricted free agent (RFA) this summer.

Connor Clifton

One of the better Bruins defensemen has been Connor Clifton. Playing in a contract season, the former Quinnipiac University blue-liner is making the case for an increase this summer, he is playing himself out of Boston with his strong season and making himself too expensive to return in 2023-24.

Connor Clifton Boston Bruins
Connor Clifton, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Averaging just under 18 minutes a night, he has added a nice offensive touch with five goals and 16 assists, but it’s been his play in the defensive zone that has been more important. He has delivered 187 hits and sacrificed his body to block 101 shots. Needing help on the right side coming out of training camp, Clifton has impressed all season with his two-way game and defensive zone work. Playing mostly on the bottom pairing, he helped to provide stability to the defense earlier this season when McAvoy and Grzelcyk were out.

This season will be one of the toughest to try and predict who will win the award. The number of players deserving of the award is high. Charlie Coyle, Brandon Carlo, and Nick Foligno are just other names that could be called when the award is handed out. Frederic, Zacha, and Clifton are three players that have stood out this season, going beyond what was expected from the three of them.

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