Looking to make the leap: Ryan Spooner

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It’s easy to look at the Boston Bruins’ offseason as a summer in which the team only got worse through subtractions, but the flip side is that those omissions also open up opportunities for others. One prospect who could be a big-time beneficiary is Ryan Spooner.

Various outlets paint him as the Bruins’ best prospect, with the 22-year-old inspiring rave reviews for his speed and skill.

The 2010 second-round pick (45th overall) already managed 11 assists in 23 games at the NHL level this season after failing to record a point in four games back in 2012-13. (He’s still searching for that first NHL tally.) Spooner bounced between the AHL and NHL last season, scoring 46 points in 49 games with the Providence Bruins.

Combine the departures of Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton with the Bruins’ noted salary cap worries and it’s easy to see a golden opportunity for Spooner, especially since he’s still on his cheap ($760K cap hit) entry-level deal.

While his ceiling is probably lower than that of Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, the burning question seems familiar enough: can he put in the necessary work in the defensive zone to appease head coach Claude Julien? Stanley Cup of Chowder implied that he could be seen as a trade bait by the organization:

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 [Alexander] Khokhlachev as the favorite forward name in trade rumors, including notably the [Alexander] 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.

Well, that doesn’t sound especially promising.

Of course, a lot can happen between today and the Bruins’ Oct. 8 season opener, so another roster move or two could force the issue of integrating Spooner into the lineup that much more.

Whether it’s in Boston or perhaps another NHL city, this could very well be the year that Spooner makes the leap to a full-time roster fixture. That doesn’t mean his work will be done by any stretch, though.

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.