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Second year pro and top forward prospect Ryan Spooner got the call for a couple of games early in the season thanks to walking shit-stain John Scott taking out his frustration at his inability play hockey on Loui Eriksson's noggin. 51 proved effective enough as a third line fill-in for those games, registering an assist in an October win against Anaheim with a quick, efficient breakout pass to his streaking linemates after collecting board work done by Chara, which would in turn be one-hand chipped ahead by Kelly sending Soderberg in all alone.
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He'd tally another less memorably in a November loss against the Islanders. Well, some of us at Chowder do remember while for others things were a bit fuzzy at the Coliseum. They need to tear down that arena, it won't stop spinning for some reason. Seems unsafe.
Earmarked as the break-in-case-of-Eriksson-concussion fill in - odd considering complete unwillingness to use him outside of the center position - Spooner wouldn't get another shot until Loui's second bout of the cobwebs in December. Over the next 20 games he would register 9 more points, a trio coming in one game against the Predators, the third of which mirrored what we're used to seeing in his grainy AHL highlights:
Nice to see his waterbug schtick from a real camera for once.
Of particular note over this period is that the coaching staff felt sufficiently comfortable with his talents and work ethic to award him with 2nd unit power play time in lieu of a resurgent Marchand. Here, Spoon saw the highest rate of man-advantage production on team. Granted, this positive could be the mirage of a reasonably short hot streak, but his work distributing the puck from the half-wall, particularly with Soderberg posted down low, proved extremely effective. The majority of his production this season would come from this role in this spot on the ice.
While there might have been a bit of hand wringing over an Olympic demotion, the truth is Spooner was in no fit state to be of benefit to any hockey team. Falling victim to the
plague flu that circulated through the Garden in January, Spooner wound up losing over 10 pounds he didn't have to lose to a particularly virulent strain. He'd not contribute much even down in Providence until March, but once full recovered he went on a reign of unholy terror, tallying 5-10-15 over 12 games in that month.
Rewarded for being a good soldier in the AHL, Spooner would get one more day of pro-rata NHL pay in April as an emergency call-up for Soderberg's happy absence for the birth of his daughter.
Throughout the season in Boston, Spooner was given solidly third line deployment, playing largely with Carl Soderberg and Matt Fraser, his ATOI clocking in at 12:59 and his QoC falling rigidly in line with the other third liners. Coupled with almost 65% Ozone starts, he was given a decent chance to succeed and posted modestly positive results - if not in the goal column, where he failed to make his mark. He'd fall just below the Relative water line in possession, good for 52.2% CF. While maligned for not being a trigger man, he'd rank sixth among forwards and ahead of Lucic and Marchand in i
CarlyCorsi/60. As an aside, Spooner's first campaign with the big club would see him post identical per-game and even strength per-60 production numbers to Krejci's longer 07/08 call-up. Both completed their years on 39 point pace.
Reviewing all of the goals on which he contributed, Spooner doesn't appear to be a passenger on much in spite of registering a lot of A2s. The throughline being either his PP quarterbacking or crisp breakout passes to set up a rush. As yet incomplete zone entry studies from our own Gus and @shutdownline also hint at Spooner having a Marchand-level ability to gain the zone with control.
Touted as the number one forward prospect in the Bruins system and just about the only call-up prospect to get his own feature in these grades, one should presuppose that expectations are a bit high for Mr. Utensil. On the one hand, he appears to have nothing left to prove to the AHL, continuing to click at a dominant pace. In the big show, Spooner made positive strides but failed to make sufficient impact to make his demotion unthinkable. With a coaching staff unwilling to roll a skilled fourth line or experiment out-of-position (in spite of a long history of doing so with others...) Spooner had to stick as a 3C or return to running roughshod of the AHL. While the goose egg in the goal column may have fans nervously reaching for Zach Hamill comparisons and have his coach hinting at him as a perimeter player, there's plenty of reason to be high on Spooner's future still, but his showing in limited use this year doesn't warrant much more than an average grade. He was a capable fill in - better than any of the other limited appearances - who performed above replacement level.
What can we expect in subsequent seasons? Seeing plays set up by Ryan Spooner in a different jersey, probably. First there's the log-jam at center and an obstinance toward even consider him as a winger. Then there's Julien's remarks upon his demotion: "Love his speed, love his creativity and everything else but when you play in the NHL you need a little bit more than that." Then there's the fact that he's joined Khokhlachev as the favorite forward name in trade rumors, including notably the Edler deal that wasn't at this season's deadline. Several signs point toward a team that views him more valuable as a commodity than player. Having zilch in the pipeline in this mold and a mid-career bunch at the position, the Bruins would be wise to hang on to their ELC depth, but with rumors of a team very active on the off-season market, it might behoove fans to loosen their attachment to this particular prospect.