Drafted 45th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Ryan Spooner has put together impressive stats in his two full seasons with the Providence Bruins. In 108 AHL games, he has 28 goals and 75 assists.
Averaging nearly a point a game in the AHL has made Spooner one of the Boston Bruins most highly touted prospects. Those excellent number have not translated in his short time in the NHL however, as the 22-year-old has no goals and just 11 assists in 27 NHL games.
Despite the less than stellar numbers, there is no denying Spooner’s excellent playmaking ability and game-changing speed. The Bruins are tight up against the salary cap for next season and will need to integrate some of their younger, cheaper players into the lineup and Spooner is an excellent candidate to fulfill that need.
Spooner’s biggest weapon in his arsenal is undoubtedly his blazing speed. In his short time with the Bruins, he has shown off that weapon multiple times and has made unsuspecting defensemen look foolish. In the series against the Montreal Canadiens that ultimately ended the Bruins season, Boston’s lack of speed clearly hurt them and if Spooner is able to make the team next season he will help greatly in that regard.
Along with his excellent speed, Spooner has also shown he is very good at finding the open man. His numbers speak for themselves, with 75 assists in just over 100 games Spooner has certainly made a name for himself because of his passing. Although he does not have the proven track record of fellow Bruins player David Krejci, some of Spooner’s passes in tight spaces are reminiscent of the ones Krejci has made his entire career. Despite struggles with other parts of his game, Spooner has consistently shown he has great vision on the ice.
The biggest reason why Spooner has not been playing on the NHL level on a more consistent basis is his defensive play. Although he has made strides from when he was drafted, Spooner has not been a reliable player on defense. If Spooner was on a different team, his great offensive talents would have been enough for him to see consistent minutes in the NHL, but Bruins coach Claude Julien has shown throughout his seven seasons with the team that he will not tolerate anything less than 100 percent effort on the defensive end.
Along with his defensive play, Spooner needs to improve on his faceoff percentage if he wants to crack Julien’s lineup. In his 23 games played last season, Spooner took a total of 145 faceoffs, winning just 59 of them, for a winning percentage of 40.7 percent. To put that into perspective, this season Milan Lucic, who is at the bottom of the list of forwards Julien would like to see on the faceoff dot, won two more faceoffs than Spooner in 14 less chances.
There is not much Spooner can do in this regard unless he goes through a growth spurt between now and the start of the season. At just 5-foot-11, 181 pounds, Spooner does not have the size to win many puck battles in the corners. Although there are many small players who have been solid in the NHL, playing against bigger forwards Spooner has had his struggles. While he probably will not be able to grow much taller, Spooner can continue to hit the weight room and add muscle to be able to withstand the wear and tear NHL players go through in an 82-game season.
Spooner clearly has the offensive tools to be a top-six forward in the NHL going forward. His defense has improved a good amount since being drafted, and he will need to continue that progression going forward. He will also need to improve on the faceoff dot, an area of his game that takes him off the ice during key defensive-zone and late-game situations.
Fortunately for Spooner, there seems to be an opening on the roster now that veteran Shawn Thornton is no longer on the team and the front office has hinted they want to get younger and faster on their fourth line. Spooner should get much more NHL playing time this upcoming season on the Bruins fourth line and if he shows improvement on the defensive side of the puck he will challenge Chris Kelly for time on the Bruins third line.