Sunday, July 25, 2010

Boston Bruins Prospect Series: #8 Ryan Spooner

Ryan Spooner, C/W
5-10, 176
January 30, 1992
Shoots: Left
Boston's 3rd choice, 45th overall, in 2010
Signing status: Unsigned

Talent Analysis

Physical: Lacks height and has a slight build; will always be considered an undersized player unless he hits some kind of major growth spurt. Plays bigger than his size; takes the puck hard to the net and not intimidated by physical play in front of the crease and in the "dirty" areas. As such, durability will be a concern because Spooner does not slow down for anything. Blazing skater with explosive first few steps and separation gear. Can really fly in a straight line, but is also very good on his edges and able to move laterally. Will burn defenders with his pure speed, but can actually play the waterbug style effectively as well by turning opponents inside-out with shifty moves in traffic. Excellent puckhandler who can carry the biscuit both in space and under pressure. Uses combination of tremendous hands with head and shoulder fakes to create space for himself and open up shooting and passing lanes. Very good shooter who can roof the puck top shelf from the outside or use quickness of hands for the finish off the deke or with lightning strikes in close. Underrated passer who can set the table with the best of them. Diligent backchecker who will gain more awareness of the defensive nuances as he gains more experience and sees ice time in a lot of different situations. Collarbone injury that cost him the rest of the season after mid-January was probably a blessing in disguise for the Bruins: there is little doubt that had he played out the string, he would have been off the board before pick 45.

Intangibles: Excellent work ethic; wants the puck at crunch time and has the natural instincts to finish when the game is on the line. High character player who never stops working. Plays with a lot of guts: on the night he broke his collarbone, he finished out the game without telling anyone he was hurt. Only after x-rays taken the next day showed the fracture did he realize the severity of his injury. Offensive instincts are right up there with Tyler Seguin: Spooner's always on the go and can quickly sense openings and make the right play. Hunts opposing defenses and goalies: using his speed and agility to circle and seek an opening, then exploding into it with the quickness and violence of the ocean's ultimate predator, the shark. A good, solid kid who may be a little shy, but is well spoken and exhibits the requisite confidence and attitude to be a gamer one day.

Bruins 2010 Development Camp assessment
Spooner was in the top-five of the best performances at camp this month, in my opinion. Like Jared Knight, he was a standout offensive performer who attracted positive attention every day. Showed off his impressive speed and stickhandling during the very first on-ice session, making a variety of moves at full gallop and fearlessly attacking into the teeth of the defense and often times scoring the goal or setting up a teammate. He skated on a line with fellow 2010 draftee Craig Cunningham and camp invite Tyler Brenner most of the week and the trio made a lot of hay and opened up some eyes with their strong offensive zone play. His skills and upside culminated in a two-goal performance at the camp's final scrimmage, where he and Knight dueled each other goal-for-goal in impressive fashion and won the respect and praise of those in attendance. His defensive play is still a work in progress, but he showed a willingness to backcheck and pick up his man, so as he continues to play a lot of minutes and learn the nuances of play in his own end, Spooner should develop as a solid player in all three zones, but one who is best served when bringing the offense.

Spooner is almost assured of going back to junior and the Peterborough Petes for the 10-11 hockey season, but it will be interesting to see how he performs at Bruins rookie and main camps in September and how he looks against the NHL and pro players there. Given his skills and offensive upside, he could one day earn a spot in Boston's top-six forward grouping and has 30-goal potential at the NHL level if he can continue to develop physically. Given the B's current situation, they don't have to rush Spooner, so he'll probably play two more years of junior, turn pro and then work his way up from there possibly with a season or two in the AHL. However, if he maintains his progression, he could speed up the timetable a bit. His size, coupled with his fearlessness and the high tempo at which he plays will be a concern for more lost time to injuries as we saw last winter. If he doesn't make the NHL as a scoring forward, he has the intelligence and work ethic to be a third-liner with special teams capability. Spooner has the potential to be a real scoring force in the AHL-- a high-end point producer who will have to prove he has that extra something that will allow him to bring that production to the highest level. He was not invited to the Team Canada Evaluation Camp which will be held the first week of August, but a strong OHL start could see him work his way into the mix and possibly get a look in December (especially if Seguin makes the B's roster in October and is not cleared to participate in the late-December/early January tourney in Buffalo, N.Y.).

"(I'm) an offensive player. I can be both a goal scorer and playmaker and I think that's what sets me apart from most of the smaller forwards out there."- Ryan Spooner at the 2010 NHL Draft, Los Angeles, CA; June 26, 2010

"I think it's sunk in (that I'm a Boston Bruin). I wasn't sure how things would go at the draft, but was very happy when I heard my name called, and so now being here with the guys and having the chance to meet the coaches and the rest of the staff has been great. We're just now getting a chance to skate a bit and show off our hockey skills, so this is just a situation where I'm trying to listen to the coaches and do what I do best, which go out and skate hard, take the puck to the net and generate some offense and all-around good play."- Ryan Spooner to B2010DW, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

"He's a very skilled player who has a lot of speed and can score just about any way you need him to. I'm convinced that he would have been a first-round pick if not for the broken collarbone, so Boston really benefited from that. I know that Ryan may have been disappointed that he slipped down (the board) a bit, but in the end, I think you'll see him use that disappointment as some real motivation to go out and prove that he was in fact a first-round talent."- NHL scout to B2010DW; June, 2010

"We're ecstatic to have Ryan in the organization. I'll admit that as we were getting close to that (45th) pick, we were really hoping that he would be there for us, so there was little hesitation (on our part) when it came time to make the selection. He's the guy we wanted there, and we're thrilled it worked out. He's a player and I think the fans will like him a lot as they get to know him."- Bruins amateur scouting director Wayne Smith to; June 26, 2010

"Clear first-round talent in our view. Did enough before the injury that he should not have been knocked down this far, but small guys always have durability concerns."- Red Line Report, July, 2010 issue; rated Spooner as the 12th-best individual "value" pick of the 2010 NHL draft.

The Final Word
The terms "value" and "upside" epitomize Spooner's selection last month in Los Angeles. He's not a big guy, but he plays big and has a knack for scoring, which is always in demand from NHL teams, especially one that finished dead last in offense during the 09-10 season. Spooner isn't going to provide immediate help to the NHL club, but he's a clear upgrade in talent for the system, and could buck the projections and make an earlier contribution than currently projected. The B's hit paydirt with the 45th overall pick seven years ago in Patrice Bergeron, but expecting Spooner to follow a similar rapid path to the big show is placing the expecations a bit too high right now. That said, most seem to agree that he's an excellent prospect with the room to grow and flourish, but without the kind of crushing expectations that go with being a top selection. He became the first Petes player to score 30 goals at age 16 (a feat duplicated this year by 2011 top prospect Matt Puempel), so he's got the ability and potential to be a legitimate scorer at the next level. Time will tell whether he can get there, but he's got the makings of a good pro.

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