COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: RYAN SPOONER
Countdown to camp: Ryan Spooner
From now until the beginning of training camp, CSN Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Ryan Spooner.
Ryan Spooner finally established himself as a full-time NHL player, managed to survive with the exacting Claude Julien as his coach and still posted 13 goals and 49 points in 80 games as Boston’s third-line center. The speed and the playmaking were there, and Spooner’s work off the half-wall was excellent for most of the year on Boston’s top power play unit. But the Bruins have spent the entire summer stockpiling centers, so one has to wonder what that portends for a speedy 24-year-old that was still benched, and moved to the wing, on occasion when the defensive lapses became too damaging last season. Training camp this month should be an interesting one for Spooner as we see what the long term plan is for him.
What Happened Last Year
Spooner had been up and down for the previous couple of years, but the fast-skating, skilled center finally got an extended chance to develop his game at the NHL level last season for the Black and Gold. Spooner finished with 13 goals and 49 points in 80 games, and had 17 power play points while serving as one of the PP point men off the half-wall. Spooner was also a minus-7 when it was all said and done after the 80 games, and had to earn every little piece of trust that he received from the B’s coaching staff. Spooner’s 5-on-5 offensive production went through lulls during the regular season, and he was taken off the top PP unit late in the season when opponents began playing far off No. 51 expecting him to pass rather than attack the net. Clearly there is work still to be done for the 24-year-old entering his second full season in Boston, but Spooner also showed more than a glimpse of the dynamic offensive player ready to bust out for the B’s. Now it’s a matter of continuing with another strong step forward on the development path.
Questions To Be Answered This Season
The question still hasn’t been answered as to whether Spooner and structured, disciplined head coach Claude Julien can co-exist long term given how their particular styles seem to run counter to each other. Spooner wants to take risks with the puck on his stick, and is looking to make offensive plays utilizing his skating and passing skills first and foremost. Defensive lapses and lost battles in the D-zone are seemingly always going to be a down side to Spooner’s game, and it will be about minimizing them rather than hoping they disappear altogether. Beyond that, one simply wonders how much better Spooner can get than the 13 goal, 49-point season he put together for the B’s last season. Certainly Spooner has 20-goal scoring potential as he gains confidence in his own abilities. He might be as valuable right now as he’ll ever be as a possible trade chip if the B’s are actively dangling him for a defenseman, and his low cost plus point production is a valued asset. But the Bruins need to also realize their list of young, dynamic offensive forwards isn’t very long at this point, and they need all the speed and offensive playmaking they can find.
In Their Words
“I’ve always been more of an offensive player. I wouldn’t say I’m ‘high risk’, but I like to make some plays that are a little more skilled. Sometimes you’re going to turn over the puck. It definitely helps when you have a little bit more of a leash, and you can just go out there and play, and not worry about making a mistake. But at the same time I need to be responsible at the blue lines, and all of that kind of stuff. It’s a learning process for me.” –Ryan Spooner has an excellent grasp on the strengths of his game, and the areas that he needed to learn more about at the midway point of the season.
Spooner took a big step forward last season, but the sense is that there is still a lot of potential within his game that has yet to be unlocked. It wasn’t easy for Spooner while getting tied to Jimmy Hayes on the third line for most of last season, and it seemed Julien could never find a third line combo able to give the Bruins quality play at both ends of the ice. Another season of something around the neighborhood of 15 goals and 50 points from Spooner would be more than acceptable from an offensive production standpoint, but he can even do more if he gets confidently assertive with the puck on his stick. It will be interesting to see what happens with Spooner if David Backes is the regular third line center on most occasions, and whether that means a move to the wing is in his immediate future. Or if that means he is likely to get moved somewhere else for that top-4 puck-moving defenseman that the B’s have sorely needed for the last two seasons. Stay tuned to see where this is all headed for Spooner once the pucks get dropped for training camp because there is plenty that has yet to be answered.