Spooner growing into his role with the Bruins

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Spooner growing into his role with the Bruins

WILMINGTON Ryan Spooner was probably the most baby-faced Bruins prospect when he first showed up at the Bruins Development Camp two years ago with Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight, among others.

He looked about 14 years old off the ice. But on it, he dazzled with a skill set and offensive game that allowed him to stick around in training camp until the very last few roster cuts.

Fast forward to today.

Spooner, now 20, still has the baby face, albeit with a touch more facial hair. He's also worked hard to add some muscle to the 182 pounds on his 5-foor-10 frame.

At least hes starting to get a little peach fuzz on his face, said Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. Hes starting to look like a little bit of a man now, so thats the biggest things I noticed about Spoons."

But one thing that remains the same: He still possesses a playmakers creativity and the natural ability to score. Just ask first-round pick Malcolm Subban, whom Spooner has put into the torture chamber of double and triple moves when during penalty-shot drills.

I guess Id have to say Spooner, said a smiling Subban after long moments of hemming and hawing about the toughest shooter hes faced this week. But thats only because he tries so badly to score on me every single time.

That kind of competitiveness in a relatively meaningless prospect camp is music to the ears of the Bruins.

Spooner will be in a group of players battling for the third-line winger position in training camp this fall, along with Knight, Jordan Caron, Chris Bourque and any veterans that general manager Peter Chiarelli brings in between now and September. Spooner might have the longest odds, but thats not a bad thing given the lessons he still needs to master with the Providence Bruins.

Hes already learned one, painfully: Find a safer, smarter way to battle with players who are much bigger and stronger. In a game in Providence last year, he went into the corner battling with a 6-foot-6 defenseman for the puck and got lifted up and tossed into the boards like a ragdoll.

I still have tons of work to do, said Spooner. I have to get much stronger. There are things I definitely still have to work on, said Spooner. I have to be patient. I hope one day to be in the National Hockey League, but I also need to pay attention to the little things that will get me there.

Skill-wise I think I can keep up with NHL players, but the little things and strength-wise adjusting to that kind of game might take some time. Everybody wants to be in the NHL right away, but when youre playing in a great organization like the Bruins, sometimes it takes a little longer.

Still, Spooner has been close to a point-per-game player during his limited time in the AHL and has the kind of offensive playmaking instincts the Bruins desperately need, both five-on-five and on their power-play unit. He needs to master playing away from the puck and tightening things up in the defensive zone, but he might have the highest upside of any forward at this years development camp.

It would be between Spooner and Russian prospect Alex Khokhlachev for those honors, and the young centers passing ability might be what puts him over the top.

Hes very creative, said Cassidy, who ran the development camp practices on the ice this week. He makes some no-look passes that some of the other players on our club just dont have the ability to make; its one of his best gifts.

"The difference I noticed from last spring to the previous one" -- Spooner played three games for the P-Bruins at the end of the 2010-11 season, and five games there last year -- "was his attention to detail. Away from the puck, hes starting to become more of a student of the game.

A year older, he wants to know the position where he needs to be, to have a good stick, and the things that hes going to need to do when the offense dries up in spurts. I noticed that difference about him. He also shoots the puck better than he did the year before.

It sounds like Spooner has his priorities straight as he heads into his first full pro season of hockey, and he has the natural ability to push for a role with the Bruins in the near future.
The marriage of the two should bring Spooner to the NHL level sooner rather than later as his dominating development camp performance shows just how ready he is to graduate to the next level.

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

The Bruins should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. They really shouldn’t. 

Yet they might. Pierre McGuire said on TSN Radio Tuesday that his guess is that Shattenkirk, arguably the best free agent defenseman on the market, will end up in Boston.

It is remarkable how universally against a Shattenkirk megadeal B’s fans have seemingly been. A Twitter poll with over 3,600 votes this month had Bruins fans preferring Boston sign 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to a two-year, $8 million extension than the 28-year-old  Shattenkirk to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. 

That is obviously the correct conclusion, but considering how hard the false “Chara is old and bad” garbage is pushed in this town, it’s telling that 64 percent would rather he stick around than the team build the defense around Shattenkirk. 

Of course, Shattenkirk is not a bad player just because he’s been overrated in recent seasons. He’s a decent second-pairing defender and strong power play asset who can be penciled in for 40 points a year. The Bruins already have that in Torey Krug, and he makes less than Shattenkirk figures to command. Shattenkirk is also a righty who plays on the right, which is not a need for the Bruins, whereas Krug is a left shot who plays both sides. 

Add in the Bruins’ cap situation due to some bad contracts and they why of Shattenkirk would be a bad signing doesn’t need to be re-hashed. By this point, the explanation’s been given a few times in a few different places. 

So what would the Bruins’ actual case for signing Shattenkirk be? 

TO KEEP IT MOVING 

Last season was encouraging for Bruins fans because it saw them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years while also seeing young talent emerge. Yet they still only made the playoffs by two points, something of which Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are undoubtedly aware. 

So for all the good signs, this could be a fringe playoff team again if more improvements aren’t made, and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years would mark a step back in the eyes of ownership, perhaps putting jobs in danger. It would be a shame if money were spent irresponsibly for the sake of saving jobs, but Shattenkirk would definitely make the Bruins better next season, even if it crippled them financially down the road. 

TO PULL A CHIARELLIAN FREE AGENT SWITCHEROO

With McAvoy set to be a top-pairing player and Brandon Carlo a good second-pairing option, the Bruins do not have a need for a highly paid right-shot defender. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli made the controversial move of trading Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings on the planet. He did it to get Adam Larsson to help build Edmonton’s blue line up, then he went out and signed Milan Lucic in free agency to replace Hall. 

If the Bruins truly have designs on adding Shattenkirk, perhaps they could have something similar in mind: Trade someone like Carlo for either a left-shot defenseman or a left wing, then replace Carlo with Shattenkirk. 

This would still not be financially palatable, however. When the Oilers traded Hall for Larsson, they swapped a player with a $6 million cap hit for a player with a $4.16 million cap hit and replaced the original player (Hall) with a player in Lucic who carried a $6 million cap hit. So essentially they netted one player for an additional $4.16 million. 

Carlo is on his entry level contract, so unless the Bruins traded him for a player on an entry-level deal, they’d be spending a lot of money in any maneuver that involved replacing him with Shattenkirk. 

TO GO ALL-IN ON POST-CLAUDE LIFE

Claude Julien’s detractors lamented his affinity for responsibility. They loved it when Bruce Cassidy was more open to trading chances. 

Well, you like trading chances? Shattenkirk’s your guy. He’s a good skater, a good offensive player and a sub-par defender. You put Krug, Shattenkirk and McAvoy as three of your four top-four defenseman and you’ll be a long way from the days of Chara, Seidenberg and Boychuk, for better or worse. 

BUT, KEEP IN MIND . . . 

They for sure should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. 

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while wishing that Gordon Hayward and Paul George were already in Boston, like, yesterday.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman gives his 30 thoughts for the week, including the trade value of a first-round pick right now.

*It could that non-unrestricted free agents steal all of the thunder on July 1 with massive contract extensions a la Connor McDavid.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings taking potential fliers on a number of veteran D-men that are out on the free market.

*With free agency right around the corner, the legendary Stan Fischler details the sad end to Bobby Orr’s career in Boston, where he was lied to about the offer extended to him and ended up playing things out with the Chicago Blackhawks in a way that it shouldn’t have gone. The sight of Orr in a Blackhawks sweater is one of the real all-time NHL oddities out there.

*The NCAA is eying college hockey expansion in NHL markets, including the University of Illinois and Pitt, and, from what I’ve been told, perhaps UNLV and maybe even Vanderbilt. This is a great thing for amateur hockey players and anybody that can’t get enough of the game.  

*Ex-Senators defenseman Marc Methot holds no ill will toward the Sens after being dealt from Vegas to the Dallas Stars following his selection in the expansion draft.

*Josh Ho-Sang shares his wisdom to Islanders prospects as a 21-year-old somebody that’s gone through the ups and downs of being in their shoes.

*As we referenced above, Connor McDavid is closing in on a massive contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will probably make him the highest paid player in the NHL.

*For something completely different: My heart goes out to this Roslindale family fighting through a situation with a child who has a life-threatening disorder. They have a Go-Fund-Me page, so please give if you can.