BostonBruins.com — Ryan Spooner’s teenage years did not fit the bill of your prototypical youth.
At age 16, Spooner left home and joined the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. By age 19, he was skating in his first game with the Providence Bruins. Now, as a full time member of the Black & Gold’s AHL affiliate, the 20-year-old prospect is working to adjust to the daily responsibilities of pro hockey.
"It’s a tough [adjustment]," Spooner admitted last week. "Obviously, I did Junior hockey for four years. That being said, playing there—it's 16, 17, 18-year-olds—then you come and you play here, and it’s all men.
"So far I’ve found it a bit of a challenge."
Beyond that challenge, what Spooner has shown the B’s brass (and everyone else who's seen him on the ice) is a prolific scoring touch.
In four seasons of Junior hockey, Spooner scored 113 goals while amassing 146 assists, averaging over one point per every contest. For Spooner, the task is now to show he can replicate that torrid pace against high-level opponents. And with performances like last weekend's, when Spooner scored a goal on Friday versus Manchester and had two assists on Saturday against Springfield—both coming in important P-Bruins victories—that point producing flare is beginning to shine.
"[The veteran players] just said it takes some time," Spooner said. "They all said they that they all went through it, so, obviously, hearing that makes me feel a little bit better."
Having an experienced AHL player like Jamie Tardif on his line makes life easier, too.
Tardif, who is entering his sixth year in the American League (his second in Providence) served as a captain for the Grand Rapid Griffins for two seasons prior to coming to the P-Bruins. The veteran, who also played in the OHL, provided some insight on the transition.
"I think it’s tough," said the forward. "Especially for guys coming out of the OHL, or Western League, or the Quebec League. I think you’re living with billets [host families] for four or five years while you’re there.
"When you come here, you’ve got to sign your own lease, and get your own groceries, and cook your own meals.
"If they have questions, they always call, and always ask some of the older guys," explained Tardif of the P-Bruins youngsters. "Being a professional, off the ice...and presenting yourself well in public goes a long way in making sure you’re ready to play every single week."
Tardif wasn’t alone in highlighting the difficulties in the jump from Junior hockey to the AHL. P-Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy also acknowledged the shift, all while giving high marks to Spooner.
"Spoons is a dynamic player," Cassidy said. "I think on the ice, when the puck drops, for the most part, he’s fine.
"For him it’s practice habits, managing the puck during the games compared to Juniors.
"He was the best player in Juniors, so he’s got to get back out there 99 percent of the time at this level; the competition is better."
Spooner is determined to be better, too. But, judging by his performance this past weekend, the process is already well underway.