VANCOUVER — This hasn’t been the NHL season that Ryan Spooner expected.
The 27-year-old forward started the year with the New York Rangers then was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers in November, only to be sent down to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, after 25 games.
Last week, the logo on Spooner’s chest changed yet again as the Oilers traded him to the Vancouver Canucks (26-27-7) in exchange for Sam Gagner.
Now back in the NHL, the Ottawa native admits that all of the moves have taken a toll on his psyche.
“Kind of in the back of my own mind, you’re thinking ‘Am I still good enough to play in the league?’ ” he said on Wednesday. “I’ve just got to think with a more positive mind set. That’s all I can do.”
Picked up by the Boston Bruins in the second round of the 2010 draft, Spooner’s 314-game NHL career has seen stints in Boston, New York and Edmonton. He’s put up 115 assists and 48 goals, but said something has been off this year.
“For some reason, this season hasn’t gone well for me,” he said. “It’s in the past now, though. It’s a fresh start.”
The fresh start may see Spooner skate alongside some of the Canucks’ top young talent. At Wednesday’s practice, he lined up with star rookie Elias Pettersson and right-winger Brock Boeser, who have combined for 41 goals this season.
“I’m just going to try to get to the net and work hard for those guys,” Spooner said, adding that he needs to keep his game simple and not get too cute with the puck.
Canucks head coach Travis Green said he’s told Spooner to enjoy the opportunity ahead and bring his best game.
“I see a guy that has some skill and it looks like he can skate all right, he has some speed in his game,” Green said. “You’re hoping that he can find his confidence.”
Spooner isn’t the only player looking for new opportunities in Vancouver.
Luke Schenn joined the Canucks lineup last week to help fill out a roster plagued by a spate of injuries in recent weeks.
“I’m not exactly sure on when I’ll get the opportunity, but there’s no question that I’m confident and ready,” the 29-year-old defenceman said Wednesday.
Taken fifth overall by Toronto at the 2008 draft, Schenn has bounced around the league over the course of his 716-game career, logging time with the Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, LA Kings, Arizona Coyotes. Through it all, he’s amassed 30 goals and 113 assists.
He signed with the Anaheim Ducks in free agency last summer but played just eight games with the club this season, spending the rest of his time with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.
Still, unsure of his future with the Ducks, Schenn kept his home in Newport Beach, Calif., and commuted 145 kilometres each way to San Diego for games and practices. He was looking to find a closer place when he was dealt to the Canucks for defenceman Michael Del Zotto and a draft pick last month.
The trade sent Schenn directly to the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. Meanwhile, his wife and son went to stay at the family’s off-season home in Kelowna, B.C. They were all reunited last week when he was called up to Vancouver.
“It’s been a crazy year,” Schenn said.
The veteran defenceman said time in the AHL has helped him to adapt to a different style of game and while he’s not about to become a puck-rushing blue liner, he hopes to contribute to the Canucks as the team pushes for a playoff spot. The team currently sits a single point out of a wild card berth in the Western Conference.
“I’ve tried to make some changes here in the last couple of months,” Schenn said. “For right now, I’m confident, feel great and I’ve played a lot of hockey in the last couple of months.”