The following feature appears in the December 17th edition of the Boston Bruins Prospect Report. Download the complete report, which includes features, upcoming games and statistics on all Bruins prospects, by clicking here.
BostonBruins.com — As hard as he is on opposing defensemen and goaltenders, Boston Bruins prospect Ryan Spooner is harder on himself.
"So far I’ve kind of been up-and-down a bit," he said, frankly, after a recent practice in Rhode Island.
But even though he acknowledges there's more in the tank, the Providence Bruins rookie forward, third on the team in points (6-10-16), has played well through 23 AHL games in 2012-13.
Spooner, who is in just his first full professional year after dominating performances in the OHL, talked about the large difference between the AHL and Junior hockey, and cited the schedule among new factors that he's vying with consistently.
"Three-in-three’s," said the soft-spoken Spooner of the AHL's three-game weekends and their effect on nutrition and workouts. "I had them in Juniors, but it’s just not really the same.
"Right now, the best thing to do is stay positive and get my rest. If I do that, I think I’ll adjust to the three-in-three’s, and I felt better last weekend."
Everyone in Providence felt better last weekend, when the P-Bruins swept their weekend schedule. Spooner had two assists and continued to show his playmaking flair.
"He can turn the game around with one whip of the stick," said fellow forward Craig Cunningham. "He’s a highly talented kid; he’s got tons of speed and tons of skill.
"When you get out there with him, you always have to be ready.
"I think he’s made the transition pretty well,” Cunningham added when asked about the jump from Juniors to the AHL. "I made the transition last year, and it’s not easy to do, especially when you’re a highly-touted kid like he is, and you play a highly-skilled game.
"When you start playing against men, things change a little bit, but I think he’s figured it out pretty well. He contributed at a young age, and it’s been great for our team," he said.
Throughout that transition, Spooner said he's tried to take that highly-skilled game and apply it to both sides of the puck.
"Playing Junior hockey, that was always one thing I was criticized for, was playing just on the offensive side," said Spooner. "So coming up here, I need to show that I’m responsible defensively.
"That means just playing well in my own end, and getting back on the back check. If I can do that, it will increase my chances to be more successful.
“If I can do that, and try to be a more all-around player, I’ll be more successful."
Boston Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney has watched every step of Spooner's development, understands the progression and sees that potential for success.
"That’s any young person’s mindset, is to run before you walk," said Sweeney as he spoke about Spooner's self described up-and-down start. "Some guys hit the ground and they’re off and running.
"But for the most part, they have to realize this league is a very, very difficult league to play in. It teaches you the habits that you need to be successful at the next level.
"It’s not just game-to-game," explained Sweeney. "It has to be on a daily basis.
"You come to practice that way, and you have the mindset that this is what’s required of me, expected of me as a two-way player to be successful in the NHL."
And the NHL is a place where Spooner could ply his trade.
"I’ve told Ryan this — he can go up and play games in the NHL," said Sweeney. "Can he stay there, and have a career, and be successful on a winning team? That’s what needs to be determined, and he has some areas that still need to be filled in. “
For now, playing in the AHL, Spooner understands what needs to be done and is concentrating on his assignments on a practice-to-practice, game-to-game and shift-to-shift basis.
"For me, I think the best thing that I can do is just play to the best of my ability," said Spooner. "If it’s me being a plus, or getting points, or just playing solid, doing well on faceoffs — anything that I can do to help the team win I’m going to try to do."