BOSTON — Ryan Spooner is no longer a fringe forward for the Boston Bruins.
The 23-year-old center is a full-time NHLer, and he’s becoming an integral part of the Bruins’ offense, both at even strength and on the power play.
It took a little while longer than some might have expected for the 2010 second-round draft pick to make his mark on the NHL, but playing the type of two-way game B’s head coach Claude Julien demands from his players isn’t easy. Spooner has made tremendous strides in that regard, while not losing the offensive skill that made him a prized prospect coming out of the OHL.
“Well, just with time and experience, he’s just getting better,” Julien said of Spooner after Boston’s morning skate Saturday. “He’s becoming a little bit more consistent, and you know, his involvement in all aspects of the game is getting better. And that’s just giving a young player some time to grow.
“You know from the American League to the NHL, for some it’s a tougher transition than others, and in his case he’s such a gifted player that, you know, we’ve stayed patient with him and tried to put him in positions where he can succeed.”
One of those positions is the power play, where Spooner’s vision, creativity with the puck and accurate shot have helped the B’s lead the league in power-play percentage almost the entire season.
Spooner, playing on Boston’s top power-play unit, has tallied 10 points with the man advantage, including five goals. He ranks third and tied for second on the team, respectively, in those categories.
For a while, a lot of Spooner’s scoring production had come on the power play, but entering Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, more than half of his 22 points, 12 to be exact, were tallied at even strength. He’s also been a point-per-game player for much of December with 10 points in his last 10 contests.
Center depth is crucial in the NHL, particularly in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult as teams put a larger emphasis on blocking shots and not playing an open, run-and-gun style. Excellent play down the middle was crucial to Boston’s success during the 2011 and 2013 trips to the Stanley Cup Final.
Spooner is providing valuable bottom-six scoring depth for the Bruins through the first three months of the campaign. They’ll need that on a consistent basis the rest of the way to be a well-rounded team as the playoff race heats up.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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