Ryan Spooner hightlights diverse group of junior prospects for Boston Bruins

By HF Staff
Photo: Ryan Spooner saw a tumultuous start to his 2010-11 season with the Peterborough Petes and was eventually traded the Kingston Frontenacs. (Photo courtesy of www.ontariohockeyleague.com

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The Bruins have an interesting and diverse crop of prospects playing Junior hockey in Canada and the States. Headlined by Ryan Spooner, the group includes wingers Jared Knight and Craig Cunningham, defenseman Ryan Button, and goaltender Zane Gothberg.

OHL

Ryan Spooner, C/LW, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 2nd round (45th overall) in 2010
January 30th, 1992, Ht: 5’10, Wt: 175 lbs.

Ryan Spooner has had a tumultuous start to the 2010-11 season. Brimming with confidence after an outstanding performance at Boston Bruins training camp, Spooner got off to a fast start for Peterborough, scoring 10 goals and 19 points in his first 14 games, but the losses kept mounting and, fed up with playing for a losing team and concerned about his development, Spooner asked for a trade.

While his request was eventually granted, he was traded to the Kingston Frontenacs, Spooner heard disparaging remarks from the Pete’s head coach on his way out.

With his new team, Spooner recorded three goals and five points in his first two games with Kingston, both wins. Ryan now has 13 goals and 27 points in just 19 games. If he can maintain that kind of pace for the entire season, he could challenge Joe Colborne for the number at the top of the Bruins prospect list.

Jared Knight, RW, London Knights
Acquired: 2nd round (32nd overall) in 2010
January 16th 1992, Ht: 5’11, Wt: 180 lbs.

Knight is working his way through a challenging season. The London Knights aren’t as strong this year, and much of the reason for that is the loss of dynamic center Nazem Kadri (TOR). Having a dynamic, puck possession center such as Kadri allowed Knight to do what he does best: drive the net, and get open in shooting lanes to unleash his fearsome shot. Without Kadri, Knight has been forced to handle the puck more, and be more of a distributor. As a result, his points-per-game are up slightly, from .904 last year to 1.1 this year, but being on pace for 25 goals is disappointing. Especially since the Knights were expecting close to twice that goal production.

It’s worth mentioning that Knight’s GM Mark Hunter is in the mix for more offensive help and was even one of the finalists in the hunt for Ryan Spooner. If they can find a legitimate replacement for Kadri, Knight could still threaten those lofty goal projections.

In the meantime, Knight will have to embrace the adversity, expand his toolset, and develop more dimensions to his game.

Tyler Randell, RW, Kitchener Rangers
Acquired: 6th round, (176th overall) in 2009
June 15th 1991, Ht: 6’1, Wt: 195 lbs.

Tyler Randell is a hard worker and a gritty customer, but his offense hasn’t developed as the Bruins had hoped. He’s now in his fourth year in Kitchener but his point-per-game numbers are down for the third consecutive season. Granted, he’s not asked to play an offensive role on his team, but the lack of growth is still discouraging. At this point, the Bruins may decide that he’s not worth one of their precious 50 contract slots moving forward.

WHL

Ryan Button, D, Prince Albert Raiders
Acquired: 3rd round, (86th overall) in 2009
March 26th 1991, Ht: 6’0, Wt: 185 lbs.

Ryan Button is a player who can not be judged his point totals. At the Bruins prospect camp, he impressed with a good combination of size, mobility, offensive swagger, and defense. But because he plays in a conservative system on a struggling, offensively challenged team, the numbers he puts up don’t reflect his natural abilities.

That said, Button appeared snake-bit early on, hitting only posts through his first 22 games, but he finally scored put one in on November 19th. His 12 points in 25 games leads his team’s defense. More impressively, Ryan is currently playing upwards of 25 minutes a night, against top lines and in all situations, and is only a minus-5 on a team that has allowed 27 more goals than they’ve scored.

Button still projects as a solid second pairing, puck moving defenseman. Look for him to join Providence as soon as the Raiders season comes to an end in mid-March.

Craig Cunningham, LW, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 4th round (97th overall) in 2010
September 3rd 1990, Ht: 5’9, Wt: 175 lbs.

The Bruins may have missed the boat by not signing Craig Cunningham to a pro contract after training camp. With both Jordan Caron and Brad Marchand making the big club, and Max Sauve getting injured early in the season, Providence was left a little thin on offensive talent, and could have used a player with Cunningham’s skills. The small, but determined forward had a good showing in camp and is absolutely tearing up Juniors, leading the ‘Dub’ in scoring with 8 goals and 41 points through 24 games.

Named captain in September, Cunningham is the last holdover from Vancouver’s 2007 Memorial Cup Champion, and was teammates with Milan Lucic on that team.

Expect Cunningham to join Button in Providence at the end of the year.

USHL

Zane Gothberg, G, Fargo Force
Acquired: 6th round, (165th overall) in 2010
Aug 20 1992, Ht: 6’1 Wt: 190 lbs.

Gothberg is working his way through the transition from high school hockey to elite juniors. He’s shown flashes of excellence, but hasn’t yet found a sustained level of consistency. For example, he started his USHL career with the Fargo Force by pitching a 3-0 shutout against the Chicago Steel, but has followed each good game with a lackluster performance, and as a result, his overall save percent is down to .888.

Still, he played well at the World Junior camp and earned the starting job f
or Team USA at the World Junior A Championship where he started every game. Through the first three games, he was excellent, allowing just one goal in each of the contests, but in the championship game, his game slipped and he was pulled halfway through the second period. Luckily, the US came back and still managed to capture Gold, but it’s clear that consistency is one of the elements Gothberg has to work on improving.