There is really only one unknown about 17-year-old Ryan Spooner: in years to come, will the 5-foot-10, 175-pound forward transfer his proven OHL offensive talent to the NHL?
The Peterborough Petes fifth-overall pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Draft was a 147-point offensive juggernaut during his minor midget year (in 74 games) for his hometown AAA Ottawa Senators. Spooner then scored 30 goals and added 28 assists in his OHL rookie year. Spooner was third in goals scored and eighth in total points among rookies. For now, in 26 games this season, Spooner has 10 goals and 19 assists and a 70-point season is within his reach. He’ll turn 18 at the end of January.
“Spooner is a dynamic player and, obviously, he is at the top of his game. Ryan’s one-on-one individual skills are superb,” Peterborough head coach Ken McRae said. “(Spooner) is great around the net and one-on-one with the goaltender.
“With the new rules in the NHL, I see guys like (Patrick) Kane, and I see no reason why (Spooner) can’t be there with his skill level.”
Hockey’s Future spoke to Spooner at the Gatorade Garden City Complex recently.
HF: In your rookie season in the OHL, you scored 30 goals and added 28 assists. What do you attribute this to?
RS: I don’t know. I guess my coaches, my linemates; they were older guys and helped me out along the way. My coaches gave me great opportunities during the year, and I can attribute my success to them, and also my parents because they helped me out with a tough year moving away from home. My parents (Brad and Sue) came to see me a lot and that made it a lot easier on me.
HF: You grew up in Kanata, Ontario, and the Ottawa Senators play there, but you like the Montreal Canadiens. Why?
RS: My dad is a Montreal Canadiens fan, so growing up with that influence made me a Montreal Canadiens fan.
HF: What about Alex Kovalev (former Montreal Canadien who now plays for the Ottawa Senators), why is he your favorite player?
RS: He is so skilled and exciting to watch out on the ice. I also love Sidney Crosby and (Alexander) Ovechkin, but Kovalev is one of the more skilled players in the league, and I just love watching him play.
HF: Is there any player in the NHL you think you are similar to in playing style?
RS: I would say maybe Daniel Briere (Philadelphia Flyers) because we are both smaller, and we are speedier forwards with good vision, or I am just like any other guy who is fast on the ice.
HF: What are your goals for this year?
RS: My goal for this year is to help my team win and improve on last year. Individually, I would like to improve on my goals of last year and become a more complete hockey player by winning more face-offs and becoming better defensively.
HF: What do you like most about hockey?
RS: I like being with all the boys and it makes me smile. I like being at the rink, and I just love playing hockey; it is a good thing and it keeps you focused in life. I just like going to the rink and practicing; it is something I really like doing.
HF: What is your biggest strength?
RS: Probably my skating ability, I have always been a good skater and it gets me out of tough situations. I am not a big guy, so I rely on my skating, and now it’s definitely my strength.
HF: You only had eight penalty minutes last year. Why is that?
RS: I guess I am a disciplined hockey player. I didn’t get into any fights, so I didn’t get any major penalties, but (laughing) I guess the refs missed some calls.
HF: What is an aspect of your game that you need to work on?
RS: I would probably say my defensive responsibility. I’ve always been a good offensive player, and growing up, I never really needed to focus on my defensive game because I was always called on for offense. Last year, I found it really difficult to play in my own end, and I have got help from my coaches, so I think I have improved this year. I have to keep on improving on that and make (defense) a key part of my game.
HF: Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life?
RS: I would say my father; he has always been there for me in everything I’ve gone through in hockey, he has taught me pretty much everything, he coached me all the way up through hockey. Whenever I do well, I know it’s because he’s always going to be there for me and he will help me out with the tough times.
HF: When you are not at the rink, what do you do with your time?
RS: I play (Sony) X-Box. I hang out with my friends. I have a girlfriend now, so I am always with her whenever I am at home and stuff like that. I guess I just do typical stuff that a teenager does.
HF: Your favorite television show is “Two and a Half Men.” What brother are you more like – Charlie or Alan?
RS: I would say neither. I’m not like Charlie because I am not with a lot of different girls, and I’m not like Alan because I have never had a wife before, so I would say I’m like Jake.
HF: What would it feel like to have your name called at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles?
RS: It would be awesome, it would be a really big honor and it is something I am working for right now, and hopefully I can achieve that goal at the end of the year.
HF: Sum up Ryan Spooner in nine words or less.
RS: A unique person who loves hockey.