BOLTON -- Ryan Spooner certainly paid attention to the Bruins' offseason moves.
The speedy 24-year-old, entering his second season with the B's, saw Boston sign centers David Backes, Dominic Moore and Riley Nash, adding to a group that includes Spooner, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Noel Acciari. And that’s not counting PTO invitee Peter Mueller, who will undoubtedly be looked at as a winger.
But so will some of the other centers, as seven (potential centers) into four (center positions) doesn't go. Only one person can center the third line, whether it’s Backes or Spooner. Spooner hopes he gets a chance to retain his role as third-line center after posting 13 goals and 49 points in the role last season.
“I’ve thought about it, and I’d really prefer to play in the middle of the ice,” said Spooner. “It’s just where I guess I’ve always played. But if they want to play me on the wing and they think that’s where I’m best, then that’s where I’m going to play.
“I’d prefer if they told me [a definitive answer] like a week-and-a-half before the season starts so I can work on some stuff. It’s definitely a change for sure, so I guess we’ll see.”
Spooner played mostly at center last season, but there were moments throughout the season when Claude Julien bumped him over to the wing. It’s part of the give-and-take between an offensively gifted young player and a coach that demands strong two-way play, and finding a common ground where both can execute to their strengths.
Clearly Spooner still has some improving to do: He was a minus-9 last season while watching his offense drop during 5-on-5 play, and his faceoff work needs refining before he becomes a center trusted in key draws by the B’s coaching staff. Spooner is also undoubtedly one of the young players that gets mentioned by other teams when Don Sweeney engages in trade talks about acquiring a top-4, puck-moving defenseman, and that won’t exactly subside now that Boston has amassed a surplus of centers.
But Spooner’s six power-play goals and 17 PP points speak to his creative work off the half-wall, and his cheap cap price, combined with his skating speed and skill, make it doubtful that the Bruins look to move him anytime soon. And he's resolved to not worry so much about the aspects of his career that he can’t control, and instead focus on rounding out the edges to a game that’s still a bit offense-heavy by most standards.
“I was below [50 percent on draws], so that kind of stuck out," said Spooner, who finished last season with a 42.8 win percentage on draws well behind the numbers for Bergeron (57.1 percent) and Krejci (50.1 percent). "They told me just to work on that kind of stuff and just the strength part of my game. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. It’s a little different because he’s a righty and I’m a lefty, but 55 percent is like a bad night for [Bergeron], so I see what he’s doing there. I try to watch [his faceoffs] and do some of the same stuff that he does. It’s hard to do though.”
Work is something that Spooner clearly isn’t afraid of, not after two years ago working his way out of Julien’s doghouse to emerge on the NHL scene, and that work-in-progress will continue this season.