Boston Bruins: Ryan Spooner is looking like a new player this preseason

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 6: Craig Anderson
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 6: Craig Anderson /

The much-maligned Boston Bruins center is doing his best to prove himself this preseason.  What can fans expect from him this year?

There seems to be someone new wearing #51 for the Boston Bruins this season.  The back of the jersey still says “Spooner,” but based upon his play thus far this preseason, he appears to be a completely different player all-around.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am one of the people who has regularly expressed doubts about Ryan Spooner in the past.  He had two prolific seasons in Providence, averaging nearly a point per game in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.  However, he never seemed to be able to perform to his potential in Boston despite having ample opportunity to do so.

It must tough on a player knowing full-well as he goes into each season that he won’t be a top-6 forward.  Spooner, a natural centerman, unfortunately is buried behind David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, who for years have occupied the top 2 center spots.  Very little a player can do to leap frog those two individuals.

Two seasons ago, Spooner put up a respectable 13 goals, 36 assists, for 49 points in 80 games. However, last season he regressed, netting only 11 goals and 28 assists for 39 points in 78 games.  Not exactly the level of production needed from a third-line center if the team wants to be competitive and be a contender for a championship.

This offseason, the organization and Spooner found themselves in a contract stalemate, which led to Spooner filing for salary arbitration.  After all was said and done, Spooner was signed back up with the Bruins at 1 year, $2.825 million per year.

A little more than the $2 million the Bruins want to pay him, but less than what he was asking for at $3.85 million.  A perfect middle ground.  And if Spooner wanted to prove himself and ensure his next deal would net him a raise, he’d only have this upcoming season to do it, making this season important for his future in Boston.

So what’s new with Spoons?

Boston Bruins
OTTAWA, ON – APRIL 12: Ryan Spooner /

Last night’s preseason game against the Blackhawks may be one of the best games Spooner has played in a Bruins uniform.  He was physical when he played defense, never looking like he was out of position and throwing his body around.

He made a great delicate backhand pass to Matt Beleskey in the neutral zone that led to David Pastrnak’s opening goal.  In a game where the Bruins only won 42% of the team faceoffs, Spooner won 43% of his.  Not exactly Selke material, but a much higher rate than his 38.9% won last season.

Playing the point on the power play (and leading all forwards with 4:18 TOI on the PP), he looked calm, cool, and composed, making all the right plays.  This includes a nice keep-and-pass under pressure on the power play that helped lead to Patrice Bergeron’s 3rd period PPG.

Not to mention, the absolutely incredible saucer pass he flung to David Pastrnak through a defenseman’s legs to create a breakaway.  Unfortunately for Spooner and the Bruins, Pastrnak was not able to convert the epic pass into a goal.

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For reference for those who didn’t see the game, and because I can’t find a video to include here, think about the ridiculous saucer pass that Erik Karlsson threw to Mike Hoffman in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season.  It was similar in length (goal-line to blue-line), but less of a high toss, more direct.

When Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked about Spooner’s performance last night, here’s what he had to say:

"“He was a crusher on that one – buried a guy,” said Cassidy. “I don’t know if physicality is the proper term. What I want to see is compete. We’ve talked about that. I don’t expect Ryan Spooner to lead our team in hits. But he has to win his share of pucks. How you do that, hard on your stick, sometimes it is body position, sometimes it is knocking a guy off the puck. It was good to see.”"

Going forward into the season

In my season preview, I had completely abandoned the idea of Spooner being the Boston Bruins 3rd line center, and has actually moved him up to play 2nd line LW with David Krejci and David Pastrnak.

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But if this most recent game and Spooner’s overall preseason play is indicative of how he will perform this season, watch for a breakout season this former second-round pick looking for a payday next season.