The New York Rangers fire sale to end February catapulted forward Ryan Spooner to the top of the pack. In only 10 games with his new club, he’s tallied 13 points. Flourishing on a line with Rangers veterans, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello, Spooner is quickly finding his home on Broadway.
Ryan Spooner Answers New York Rangers Call to Action
The deep hole left in the Rangers line up by Derek Stepan‘s departure was far greater than anyone could have assumed during the last off-season. Without Stepan’s knack for playmaking, and chemistry with his fellow veterans, the Rangers forward structure collapsed. Flip-flopping lines like pancakes at a diner, there has been in trouble up front all season.
A New Age Begins
When peaking veteran Rick Nash departed for the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline, Spooner landed in a pocket tailormade for him. Selected 45th overall in 2010 by the Bruins, Spooner has enjoyed the better part of six seasons in Boston. In 2015-16, he reached his career points high with 49. With the Rangers, Spooner has given new life to a dying team despite his already substantial NHL career. Originally a throw-in to take over Matt Beleskey‘s contract, Spooner is poised to be as reliable as Chris Kreider or Mika Zibanejad.
Standing at 5’10”, Spooner is below NHL average in terms of height, though he still tops Zuccarello. His low centre of gravity makes him an excellent escapist on the ice. Paired with his soft hands and impressive passing ability, it’s no wonder he’s racked up so many points in so few games played with the Blueshirts. He’s been able to transition well into playing wing, despite his experience as a centre. Something J.T. Miller was unable to effectively achieve.
Spooner has assisted on 11 of the Rangers 31 goals since February 25th and scored two of them. This means that he’s been a part of 43 percent of the Rangers offensive production since his arrival. Use his second game with the Rangers against the Vancouver Canucks as an example.
On the Rangers first goal of the night, scored by Hayes, Spooner dumps it in, allowing Fast to get in on the hard forecheck. Fast passes to Hayes who nets the wraparound chance. To create chemistry like that on your first shift on a team is something special. On the third goal, Spooner’s control in the offensive zone to reach Neal Pionk on the blue line created yet another key chance for the Rangers, forcing the Canucks to make a goaltending change. Spooner went on to dangle Brendan Leipsic to assist on John Gilmour‘s beautiful one-timer to seal an overtime victory. Spooner couldn’t have asked for a better game.
An Uncertain Future
Post-trade deadline, the Rangers have gone 5-2-2, earning twelve points. This uptick is a direct result of both Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov‘s acquisitions. The difficult reality is the Rangers will need to find salary cap room to re-sign both, considering they are both RFAs. However, it’s important to note that Namestnikov has earned only three points compared to Spooner’s 13. Both natural centres, they have also shown the flexibility to play on the wing. This should benefit the Rangers in the long-term thanks to their burgeoning young guns Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil.
While the Rangers recent winning ways are detrimental to their upcoming draft picks, it’s encouraging to see a team with promise rather than pessimism.
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