The following feature is running as part of BostonBruins.com’s #ProspectTBT series, highlighting current Bruins and their paths to the NHL, including key markers like the NHL Entry Draft and the Boston Bruins Development Camp.
BostonBruins.com — There are milestones in every NHL player’s career.
There’s the Stanley Cup, if one should be so lucky to raise it.
There are awards, if one attains admiration from their peers, superiors, and the reporters who cover his every move.
There are goal markers and game pucks — 100th, 200th, 1,000th and so on — if one should be so lucky to have health and longevity.
There are first steps, though, en route to those milestones: the NHL Draft, wearing the jersey for the first time, a player’s first development camp, first training camp, that first NHL game, the first point, first goal.
No matter how a career pans out, a player will always have those.
So, here we are, with the sixth week of #ProspectTBT, about to take a trip down memory lane with Ryan Spooner.
Players do not often look back, especially in this league, and especially when they still have much to accomplish in their careers. Spooner still has much to accomplish.
He is 24 years old. He finished his first full-time season in the NHL with Boston in 2015-16, recording 13 goals and 36 assists for 49 points in 80 games. He had a steady role on the Bruins’ No. 1 power play unit that raced ahead at a torrid pace for the first half of the season.
It has been six years since the gifted center was drafted 45th overall by the Bruins in the second round of the NHL Draft, on June 26, 2010, at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
“I remember I had my mom and my dad there, my sister and my girlfriend at the time and my aunts and my uncles, and it was fun that it was in a spot like LA, too,” Spooner recalled of his draft day, joining BostonBruins.com via phone after a hard day of offseason training.
“I didn’t know where I was going to go, and I was actually pretty nervous,” he said. “But it was also an exciting time too. I was just glad I had all of my family there to support me, too. It definitely feels like it was a long time ago — six years ago — but it was definitely a fun time.”
Back then, Spooner rocked a buzz cut (which, as of a few weeks ago, he now rocks once again).
In his first-ever “scrum” with Boston reporters on that June day in L.A., he nervously spoke about the type of player he was, a standard quote that players have well-rehearsed.
“An offensive player,” he eagerly told media, while he officially wore the Spoked-B jersey for the first time and donned an NHL Draft hat over said buzz cut.
“I mean, obviously I’m smaller — so I use my speed and my quickness to get out of situations with bigger defensemen in the corner,” Spooner continued. “And also, I have the ability to be both a goal scorer and a playmaker and I think that sets me apart from most other smaller forwards.”
That it does.
Six years later, Spooner has assumed, at least for now, the center position on Boston’s third line, behind one-two punch centermen Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
His creativity, his drive, and most importantly, his patience, have carried him this far.
It takes patience to play in the American Hockey League for a season and a half before getting your first chance in the big leagues.
That chance for Spooner came on Feb. 6, 2013, when he made his NHL debut in Montreal. Krejci had been injured; Spooner needed to fill in.
It takes patience to earn your first NHL point — an assist — in October of 2013, before scoring your first NHL goal nearly two seasons later on Feb. 27, 2015, and after 34 goal-less games in the NHL.
It takes patience to go up-and-down from Providence for two seasons before earning a spot in the NHL, and continue to progress in order to keep that spot.
It takes patience — but it also takes drive, an immense amount of internal drive, to make an impact.
Spooner was persistent with his growth, ever since attending his first Bruins Development Camp in July 2010, a month after he was drafted.
“It gives you the expectations they have for you, too. It’s a time for them to tell you, ‘This is what we expect out of our players, this is the physical condition you need to be in, this is what it’s like,’” Spooner recalled. “And then they kind of weed out guys from there — there’s guys that commit to it and guys that don’t commit to it and that shows in the next year or two.”
“I remember that when I went there [to camp], it was an eye-opener when I came from playing in the OHL, where I was pretty much eating all of the food that I wanted to and not working out really that much,” said Spooner. “And then you go there and realize how much emphasis is put on the diet part of it and the physical training.”
“It’s an experience that I think is a much needed one.”SaveSaveSaveSave SaveSaveSave
The 2016 Boston Bruins Development Camp, presented by AT&T, will take place from July 12-15, at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass. All on-ice sessions are open to the public, with the camp’s roster to be announced at a later date. For the latest information on current Bruins prospects, bookmark BostonBruins.com/prospects.