COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: Ryan Spooner
Countdown to camp: Ryan Spooner
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: Ryan Spooner.
It wasn’t always a sure bet that Spooner, 25, was going to return to the Bruins given trade talks and the NHL expansion draft, he is the odds-on favorite to again start the season as their third-line center. Spooner has speed and skill and has made a major impact on the power play the past couple of seasons. Still, there’s a nagging feeling the B’s are always going to be looking for a better, more well-rounded option until Spooner better grasps his duties in the face-off circle and in the defensive zone.
What Happened Last Year
Spooner finished with 11 goals, 39 points and a minus-8 rating last in a half-step down from 13 goals and 49 points the previous season. He finished the season out of the lineup in the final few games of the playoffs. It’s a variation on a theme for Spooner, who is good enough offensively and very good on the man advantage while working off the half-wall. But Spooner doesn’t get involved in the fray nearly enough and doesn’t have the same impact offensively in 5-on-5 play as he does when his team is on the power play. Certainly, some of last season can be chalked up to being forced to play on the wing rather than center earlier in the season, a move that didn’t get the best out of speedy, young center. Spooner also suffered a concussion late in the season that saw him go very quiet offensively when he returned. It directly led to Spooner finally getting benched in the postseason when he was too much of a non-factor. In all areas, Spooner could have been better last season and he needs to be this season if he’s going to stave off the young players gunning for his job.
Questions To Be Answered This Season
At 25, the time is nigh for Spooner to establish exactly what he’s going to be in the NHL. Is he going to be a player who coasts along with 12 goals and 40 points as a decent third0line center? Or does he have designs on someday being a top-6 player capable of much, much more? Spooner is still young enough to change some of the tentativeness and rough edges in his game, but he’s getting dangerously close to the NHL age where teams will view him as a finished product rather than a young guy capable of improvement. Spooner needs to be much more assertive to play to his speed and skill and he likewise needs to be utilized properly by the team that will let him play to his strengths. With that in mind, playing him at center rather than wing is part of the solution to get the best out of him. There’s also the simple question of whether Spooner will be with the Bruins for this full season, or if he’s going to wind up traded after the B’s discussed moving him to Minnesota for a defenseman. Stay tuned for all the answers.
In Their Own Words
“Ryan’s a talented player and he’s had a lot of success, our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing and he can be a good complement to our group. Ryan struggled down the stretch, had a nice bump when Bruce first took over, the familiarity probably helped. Offensively it tailed off.” –Don Sweeney, describing Spooner’s efforts last season that ended with him being scratched in the playoffs.
Spooner didn’t get traded for a defenseman and he was protected by the Bruins in the expansion draft. S,o he returns to Boston for another go-round as the third-line center while the B’s prepare former second-round pick Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson for his time as the third-line center behind Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. It’s entirely up to Spooner how much longer he remains in Boston before the Bruins turn things over to JFK, who certainly looked like he needed some development time in his NHL cameo last season. Given a full season at his natural center position with the lessons he’s learned the past couple of years, Spooner should be capable of 15 goals, 50 points and much better all-around play in the middle. But he’ll have to go out and do it for the Black and Gold rather than taking another half-step back as he did last season.