Once labeled a “liability defensively” by coach Claude Julien, Bruins center Ryan Spooner will head into the 2015-16 season with five pounds of additional weight, not to mention some well-earned confidence after finishing 2014-15 on a tear.
“When I was called up before, I was more focused on trying to score and getting shots on net, and all of that stuff,” said Spooner, per CSN New England. “I think at the end of last year I just decided I was going to try to play a little more on the defensive side of things. If I did get the puck then I would go down [the ice], and just sort of do my thing. That seemed to work out pretty well.”
Indeed it did. From late February on, he had 18 points in 24 games, mostly on a line with Milan Lucic and young David Pastrnak.
The B’s re-signed Spooner in the offseason, giving them two years of his services at a cap hit just below $1 million. That could turn out to be a great deal, provided he keeps progressing.
The Bruins locked in one of their better young forwards on Wednesday, signing Ryan Spooner to a two-year deal worth $1.9 million — a cap hit of $950,000.
Spooner, 23, finished last season with eight goals and 18 points in 29 games. He’ll likely get a crack at replacing Carl Sodeberg at center next season, now that the veteran Swede is a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
Spooner got a few looks down the middle last season and looked to have some chemistry on a line with Milan Lucic (another departed Bruin) and rookie David Pastrnak.
Boston’s 45th overall pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Spooner was a restricted free agent that, earlier, had received his qualifying offer from the B’s.
David Krejci continues to get closer to a return to the Boston Bruins lineup, although according to Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe, that’s not guaranteed to happen Saturday.
When he does come back, don’t bet on Ryan Spooner, Boston’s 2010 second-round pick, being taken out of the lineup to make room for Krejci.
On Thursday, in a loss to the Ottawa Senators, the 23-year-old Spooner scored twice and had seven shots on net. Earlier this month, he had a point streak that reached seven games, and it looks like his recent play has left a favorable impression on head coach Claude Julien.
“I think everybody here knows that Ryan Spooner is playing well. I’m going to be honest with you: he’s not coming out of our lineup playing the way that he is,” said Julien, as per CSN New England.
“That’s just doing the right thing and he deserves it right now. We’ll just have to figure out what we’re going to do from there [when Krejci does return].”
The Bruins are in Florida to take on the Panthers on Saturday.
It’s another important game. The Bruins are only two points up on the Senators for the final Wild Card spot in the East. The Panthers are still hanging around in the playoff race, sitting just five points back of Boston.