Since he became a Boston Bruin full-time during the 2014-2015 season, people have eagerly awaited the day Ryan Spooner would live up to the hype that surrounded him when he was chosen by the Bruins in the second round of the 2012 draft. Last season it seemed the patience had run out for Spooner where the Bruins organization was concerned as they did not come to a contract extension until hours before arbitration was set to begin. The $2.825 million, one-year contract was much less money and time than the 25-year-old had hoped for, but he knew he needed to step it up.
With his future with the Black and Gold on the line, it seems Spooner has finally found that drive and it’s as if he’s a whole different player this season. In 20 games with the Bruins this season the Ottawa native has four goals and nine assists. He missed a good chunk of the first half of the season due to a groin tear that popped up during training camp, but he came back just in time for what has become the Bruins most successful run this season and possibly within the past few years.
The Bruins have been on a tear through the NHL since late November and three of Spooner’s four goals have come in that span with the most recent coming during the Bruins 6-5 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is currently at a plus-six rating which is reassuring considering he has ended both of his past two seasons with a minus rating.
There’s an extra push on Spooner to be better this season for a few reasons: trade rumors have surrounded the centerman constantly for the past couple of seasons and if his production did not improve during five-on-five play, it was a pretty safe bet that he would be on the chopping block for the February 26 trade deadline.
Last spring’s signing of former Boston University center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, who is a phenomenal two-way player, meant the Bruins were adding yet another center to their already abundant lineup down the middle so Spooner would need to prove he deserved to be in his natural position. The bottom line: Spooner needed to elevate his game and be better. To his credit, number 51 got that message loud and clear and has shown he is up for the challenge.
In September Spooner told media “This is kind of the year for me where if I don’t do well then I might not be here anymore, so I kind of need to focus on the things that I can be a lot better at and go from there.” Those focuses included being harder on the puck and going to the danger areas in order to win more battles. Spooner has been juggled between center and wing next to David Krejci throughout the years so winning battles along the wall is more important than ever.
When asked about Spooner, head coach Bruce Cassidy said this season “I think he is a different player… He was definitely hurt at the start, trying to play through it. He is a guy who needs his legs; that is his greatest asset.” He finally got his legs under him once he returned from injury and showed how much he has improved in the Bruins 5-0 blowout of the Ottawa Senators when he opened the scoring for the Bruins off of a block; he’s upped his transitional game immensely and is finally living up to the high-speed, skilled player he was always predicted to be.
It’s not certain that Spooner is safe from the trade deadline, in fact with his performance this year he’s added to his trade value. Fast, versatile players who can provide offense during five-on-five play and on the man advantage are always in high demand in the NHL and, at 25, he is still young enough to sign a big contract. But, for right now, the Bruins have a system that begs the question why fix something if it’s not broken and Spooner has been a big part of that system this season. It seems he may have saved his future with the Bruins, but only time will tell.