Yesterday's profile was on Penticton Vees winger Beau Bennett. Today's profile is about a similar player, except he's a center and plays in a far tougher league: Ryan Spooner.
Ryan Spooner - C - 5'10" 172 lbs. - CSS Rank: 39 - Hometown: Kanata, Ontario (Source: NHL.com)
2009-10 Team: Peterborough Petes - 47 GP - 19 G - 35 A - 54 Pts. - 12 PIM
The OHL plays a 68-game season, so how come Spooner missed 21 games? Spooner suffered a broken collarbone back on January 23, though he did return in March during the Petes' playoff series against Toronto-St. Michael's Majors. Unfortunately, Spooner didn't do much to boost the Peters against the Majors, as they were swept in 4 games. That Spooner didn't immediately return to form seems understandable given he was returning from such a serious injury.
However, I don't think that's the reason why Spooner is ranked as low as he has been. Like with Bennett and Straka, this draft is full of prospects where opinions are varied. As such, Spooner being injured certainly didn't help his own cause with less time for him to stick out. Read on after the jump to find out what others have said about Spooner.First, let's begin with the NHL.com scouting profile. Spooner's broken collarbone was mentioned, but definitely noted his strong production rate, his winning of the Most Sportsmanlike Player award from the OHL, and these quotes from Chris Edwards of Central Scouting Services and his coach, Ken McRae:
"He's a solid guy, he battles and competes and gets involved. He's grittier than some other guys. He plays with good energy, he's up and down. He skates very well and has a good skill set." - Edwards
"Ryan has been a very dynamic player for us over the past two seasons. He is very strong on the puck and is very elusive down low in the offensive zone avoiding and escaping his check. His ability to play all 200 feet of the ice has improved each season. He is our go to guy when a big goal or play is needed." - McRae
NHL.com also had this video on Spooner, where he speaks out his own game and gets some serious praise from E.J. McGuire of CSS.
Yet, despite the praise from the director of CSS, Spooner's ranked in the second round. Why? His size certainly doesn't help; like Bennett, he needs to get stronger. However, he may not be getting any taller. The injury certainly forced him to miss a good part of the season and comeback into the OHL playoffs cold. So there could be some questions resulting from absence; namely, how would a fully healthy and "in form" Spooner would have been in the playoffs? Enough to make a difference?
Per the NHL.com scouting profile, Spooner did represent Canada at the U-18 level both in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament (a U-18 summer tourney) and the World U-18 tournament. It's a good sign that he has been talented enough to represent Canada at the U-18 level. In the Hlinka tournament, Canada was fantastic. They won the whole tournament in impressive fashion over Russia, 9-2 in the final. Yet, Spooner only contributed one goal and two minor penalties in four games.
However, Canada was very bad in the World U-18s, falling into the relegation round (they survived relegation, fortunately). Spooner only put up two goals in Canada's disappointing venture in Belarus. Again, he's still developing and these are short tournaments. Besides, I don't know how his coaches utilized Spooner on Canada's roster. Maybe he wasn't on a scoring line? Yet, they are against top competition - U-18 national teams - and you'd like to see offensive players actually put up some points against them. This could be a reason why Spooner is a projecting as a first round pick/early second round pick instead of earlier in the draft.
I note that Spooner is an offensive player largely because that's the major takeaway from a lot of the other reports on Spooner. You've seen the quotes from the NHL.com profile above, here's a few more blurbs. First, here's Bruce Ciskie's profile at FanHouse about Spooner, whom they ranked 30th. He took his performance in the CHL Top Prospects game as a positive, which it is - being that it's among the best the three Canadian major junior leagues have to offer.
A strong performance in the CHL Prospects Game was likely the highlight of his second season with the OHL's Peterborough Petes. Spooner scored the game-winning goal in that game, and he had a chance to play in different situations and show off his potential as an all-around forward.
Spooner scored 54 points in 47 regular-season games before suffering his injury. In the prospects game, he showed that he has the ability to be a strong two-way player with playmaking skills.
Spooner isn't very big, but he has good hockey sense, works hard, and has good vision in the offensive zone. He makes the kind of passes that can't be taught, and he's capable of setting up any team's top scorers
The Scouting Report likes Spooner much more, ranking him 26th out of 100 prospects in this coming draft. The whole profile is worth reading, as it's quite detailed and it emphasizes how much of a hard worker Spooner has been in the OHL. The profile even goes as far as to liken his skills to Martin St. Louis - note that they aren't saying he'll be like St. Louis one day, but that he plays like he does. Here's the concluding bit, but again, do read the whole thing.
While it will be unlikely to see Spooner hear his name called in the first round come June, he’s still a player that people need to watch out for. He’s one of the more dynamic players in the OHL, at only 17 years old, and has the skill set that projects him to be one of the top scorers in the league the next couple of seasons. His size and strength are still big concerns, but a team that is willing to overlook that for now, in lieu of his offensive talents, could pay huge dividends in the future. Spooner also is one of the hardest workers on the ice, which is a definite positive to see in any player, yet alone an undersized one.
I love reading that prospects are hard workers. It belies that if they're willing to put in the dirty work now, they're willing to do so at the next level. Of course, the lack size and strength is consistent negative for Spooner; but it's among plenty of praise for his skating, passing, shooting and offensive awareness. Again, like Beau Bennett. Also, the Scouting Report did note that Spooner did get better on defense, so he's not a lost cause on that front. Improvement in a weaker area, like hard work, is also good to see from a prospect.
The positivity can be further found at Sharkspage, where Max Giese collected a ton of information from experts (e.g. Red Line Report, International Scouting Services) on potential first rounders for San Jose. They do have the 28th overall pick, so Spooner could be a possibility. Here's what Giese had on Spooner:
This creative playmaker unfortunately saw his season end prematurely when he broke his collarbone in his first game back after the CHL Top Prospects Game. Lacks size but is one of the purest skaters and smartest players available in the draft. Anticipates developing plays and is an elusive skater who can hit his top gear in one stride. Good away from the puck and is an ace penalty-killer that will inject any lineup with energy.
An "ace penalty-killer," huh? Maybe if Spooner's offensive game doesn't translate over to the pro game all that well, he could still make a career being an high-energy depth forward who can kill penalties? Still, this further confirms that Spooner has the "goods" on offense.
A more sobering take on Spooner comes from Ryan Yessie of OHL Prospects, a blog that focuses on upcoming players in the Ontario Hockey League. Back in the end of May, Yessie ranked all of the OHL prospects, slotting Spooner 20th. Here's his short take on the Peterborough center:
Scouting Report: Spooner is one of the best pure playmakers in the draft. Despite his size he carries the puck effectively with good balance and is hard to stop once he starts moving with the puck. He appears to have outstanding playmaking abilities, and his stats would be much higher if he spent the entire season with Austin Watson on his wing. Spooner has excellent speed. Despite all the positives Spooner appears to wander defensively, and could really improve his play without the puck. Spooner will also have to overcome his small size to make it to the next level.
Those criticisms at the end are striking, and in conjunction with the poor performance at the World U-18 tournament as well as the shortened season, they help explain why Spooner isn't a sure-fire first round draft pick.
That said, in this interview with Sunaya Sapurji of Yahoo! Sports, he is aware of the criticisms about his size, strength, and off-the-puck play, and wants to improve in those areas. This isn't new to Spooner. He made a point of it to state that he "didn't want to be a one-dimensional hockey player" in this video interview back in December 2009 with TV Cogeco Ontario (which also has some highlights of Spooner goals).
Therefore, I wouldn't be as terribly concerned if the Devils picked him at 38th overall. So he's not tall. So what? He fills a positional need in the system (center) as well as a skillset need (offensive forward). Unlike Bennett, Spooner has shown off his talents in a more competitive league and even on the international level. Even though his last two tourneys didn't go so well for him in terms of basic stats, he still has the quality to be selected to represent Canada. He's quick, he's got a lot of offensive tools, and nobody seems to dispute his work ethic. These are all good traits, especially the latter in my opinion. I think he would be a fine selection, though I do seriously doubt he'll be available.
Now it's your turn. Have you seen Ryan Spooner play? If so, what do you think of his game? What do you think he could project to be in the future? If you haven't seen him play, what do you think of the information out there on Spooner? Was there anything I missed or misunderstood? How would you react if the Devils picked him 38th overall on this coming Saturday? Please leave your thoughts in the comments, and thank you for reading.