AHL Prospect Rankings: #9 – Tyler Spurgeon

Jonathan Willis
February 17 2009 11:17AM

Spurgeon and Goulet

There is one major concern with Tyler Spurgeon, a concern that could ultimately decide whether or not he has an NHL career: injuries. Just last season, it was possible that Spurgeon would never play hockey again after suffering a serious concussion initially described as “career-ending”. Other than that, he’s on the smallish side and his offensive upside at the NHL level is questionable at best.

Position: Centre
Size: 5’10”, 188lbs
Birth-date: April 10, 1986
Shoots: Left

Spurgeon spent his junior career with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, where he was a part of two WHL championships and a Memorial Cup championship. Here are his numbers out of junior:

  • 2002-03: 50GP – 7G – 6A – 13 PTS, +4
  • 2003-04: 49GP – 8G – 16A – 24 PTS, +7
  • 2004-05: 72GP – 21G – 41A – 62 PTS, +20
  • 2005-06: 39GP – 7G – 17A – 24PTS, +3

Spurgeon was a bit player on the 2002-03 WHL Champions, a team that went 51-14-6-1 and scored 311 goals while allowing only 164 for a whopping +157 goal differential. The Rockets were coached by Marc Habscheid and featured future NHL’ers Duncan Keith, Josh Gorges, Shea Weber, Blake Comeau, and Nick Tarnasky. Surprisingly enough, the Rockets were led offensively by a quartet of future minor-leaguers (Jesse Schultz, Kiel McLeod, Tyler Mosienko and Tomas Slovak). Spurgeon and Comeau were the only 16-year olds on the team, and Spurgeon’s +4 was below average on a team this strong.

The 2003-04 Kelowna Rockets were the Habscheid team that won the Memorial Cup, and while they still had a strong season, they didn’t romp through the league like they had the year before. They posted a 47-21-4 record, with 185 goals for and 125 against, for a +60 goal differential. Spurgeon’s +7 was a hair below average on the team when adjusted for the number of games that he missed. Offensively, Spurgeon was in on 13% of the offense, a number that jumps to 19% when adjusted for games missed, making him a slightly above average offensive player as a 17-year old junior. Spurgeon also served as an assistant captain.

Marc Habscheid left the team after winning the Memorial Cup, so assistant coach Jeff Truitt was promoted for 2004-05. Spurgeon had his finest year as a junior, playing in all 72 games and leading the team in scoring. The Rockets went 45-13-12-2, scoring 215 goals and allowing 139, for a +76 goal differential. Spurgeon was in on 33.5% of the team’s offense, showing a much better scoring touch than he had exhibited previously, and his +20 was one of the best numbers on the team. Spurgeon turned it up in the playoffs, scoring 11 goals in 24 games en route to the league championship, all while suffering through an injured shoulder, which he had surgery on in the offseason.

Spurgeon was named captain of the Rockets for 2005-06, but he missed the first half of the season recovering from surgery. The Rockets went 46-22-1-3 while posting a +55 goal differential (243GF/188GA). Spurgeon figured in on 18% of his team’s offense, but he had a slow start and was scoring at a point-per-game pace to close out the year.

Spurgeon turned pro for 2006-07. Here are his numbers as a professional:

  • 2006-07 (ECHL): 39GP – 12G – 17A – 29 PTS, +7
  • 2006-07(AHL): 34GP – 5G – 10A – 15 PTS, +2
  • 2007-08: 12GP – 1G - 7A – 8 PTS, +7
  • 2008-09: 54GP – 5G – 12A – 17 PTS, -2

2006-07 was a good year for Spurgeon on the whole. He started the season in the ECHL, but that can at least partially be attributed to the lack of an Oilers’ AHL affiliate. Once he was recalled by Wilkes-Barre, they kept him for the remainder of the season. In the ECHL, the Thunder scored 225 goals and allowed 197, for a +28 goal differential. Adjusting for games played, Spurgeon’s +7 was well above the team average, and figured in on just under 24% of the Thunder’s offense. At the AHL level, Spurgeon’s +/- was slightly below the team average, and he figured in on 12.8% of the Penguins’ offense (again, adjusting for games played).

Spurgeon’s AHL numbers in 2007-08 were exceptional, but his luck was not. He suffered a major back and shoulder injury in training camp, and then appeared in twelve games before being derailed by a concussion. Guy Flaming had a nice article describing Spurgeon’s return from injury. Not much earlier, Flaming had cut Spurgeon from Hockey’s Future’s Top-20, with the following note:

If continually healthy, Spurgeon’s name would be higher on the top 20 list but there are questions as to whether he can carve out a lasting career having had two major shoulder surgeries and a long layoff due to a concussion. If heart, determination and character were all that it took to get back on the ice, he would have been back playing a long time ago.

This year has been a bounce-back season for Spurgeon. He was named the fittest player in training camp, something that Spurgeon attributed to a need to make up for time lost to injury. Craig MacTavish, who recently threw Spurgeon’s name out as a call-up possibility, had some positive things to say about him in camp:

“There are some guys who just don't leave a stone unturned in terms of their preparation ... and he's obviously one of those guys. He thinks the game incredibly well, does literally everything in the game that he can. The one thing he has trouble with at times is skating, and when you're conditioned as well as he is right now, his skating looks very adequate.”

Spurgeon’s 17 points and -2 rating come against the best players in the AHL, and they come on a team that has scored 120 goals while allowing 168. Among regular forwards, only Derek Bekar has a better +/- (+1). The downside is that Spurgeon’s only figured in on just over 14% of his team’s offense, so he isn’t lighting the world on fire scoring-wise, but he’s certainly been the most effective defensive player on the Falcons, and he’s been praised time and again this season for his character and his willingness to get involved physically.

If he can stay healthy, I think Spurgeon has a very good shot at an NHL career. He should be a very good fit on the 4th line (perhaps even as early as next season), and may even have potential as a shut-down centre on the third line, based on his use in the AHL this season. He’ll never be a high-end scorer, but his track record would seem to indicate that he has more offensive prowess than he’s showed this season, something that might become more obvious if he were used in an offensive role.

NHL Contract Status: 500K for 2008-09, pending RFA
AHL Performance Compares To: Marty Reasoner
Projection: NHL 4th-Liner

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Jason Gregor
February 17 2009, 12:22PM
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AHL Performance Compares To: Alex Burrows

That must be based on numbers, because he plays nowhere near the crap-disturber style of Burrows, nor does he skate as well.

I agree that his faceoffs and smarts might land him a gig in the Show down the road.

JW, based on how crap they are right now, I give you credit for finding eight guys who are better than Spurgeon in Springfield. You are an optimist.

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#2 Jonathan Willis
February 17 2009, 12:45PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Yeah - based on results. I tried to find somebody with similar levels of a) offense b) quality of competition c) defensive ability d) feisty game and e) size deficiencies who would be familiar to people here, and Burrows was about as close as I could get. I almost said Reasoner, but from what I've seen Spurgeon's quite a bit more willing to mix it up. On the other hand, Spurgeon's skating compares better with Reasoner, so maybe I should have gone that way.

As for guys who are better, I don't want to give out the full list, but there are a couple of defensemen and a goaltender, and the forwards have already seen NHL time. I also knocked him down a little bit on account of his injury history. I'm glad you agree with me on Spurgeon - he just seems like one of those guys who will make it, despite the odds.

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#3 Mr DeBakey
February 17 2009, 02:09PM
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These numbers have something in common:

-5' 9" 168 -5' 10" 174 -5' 10" 175 -5' 10" 180 -5' 10" 180 -5' 10" 184 -5' 11" 185 -5' 10" 188 -5' 11" 191

If you guessed They're all inflated, you'd be correct!

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#4 sittingatmydesk
February 17 2009, 02:37PM
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@ Mr DeBakey: BINGO!!!!

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#5 Tencer's Brain Cell
February 17 2009, 05:12PM
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"If he can stay healthy, I think Spurgeon has a very good shot at an NHL career."

Sorry Jonathon, but don't you think you're overstating things, here? What does 'very good shot at' mean? To me, it sounds like you mean 60-75% chance of being an NHL regular. (If you mean 10-35% shouldn't you have said something like 'reasonable chance' or even 'outside chance'?)

Or by NHL career do you mean occasional roster player?

I mean, maybe I'm just undervaluing AHL guys like Spurgeon, but do all AHL'ers with similar career paths, pedigree, and statistics have a 'very good shot' at an NHL career.

I don't mean to be critical, and I think I see what you're saying, but words matter, and we think we have a habit of overvaluing -or at least speaking in a way that sounds like overvaluing- our prospects.

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#6 Tencer's Brain Cell
February 17 2009, 05:15PM
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Another way of putting the same point:

If the Oilers 9th best prospect has a 'very good shot' at an NHL career, we have far and away the best prospect pool in hockey, no? (The Springfield team doesn't seem so talent-laden to me.)

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#7 APE
February 17 2009, 06:33PM
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We already have enough plugs on this team. He is just another Toby except he can take faceoffs.

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#8 Jonathan Willis
February 17 2009, 08:48PM
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@ Tencer's Brain Cell:

If he can stay healthy, I'd say Spurgeon has a better than 60% chance of at least playing five seasons on an NHL roster. It seems like he has the character, and all of the little habits that appeal to coaches, plus he's excelling against the vaunt on a crap NHL team.

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#9 Jonathan Willis
February 17 2009, 08:48PM
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APE wrote:

We already have enough plugs on this team. He is just another Toby except he can take faceoffs.

You need depth in the AHL; AHL players who can step in, or play a 4th line role on the cheap are always useful.

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#10 APE
February 17 2009, 11:21PM
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If he wants to be a shut down player he needs to learn how to skate. Simple as that. To play any role in the new NHL you need to have decent foot speed.

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#11 Jonathan Willis
February 18 2009, 07:41AM
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APE wrote:

If he wants to be a shut down player he needs to learn how to skate. Simple as that. To play any role in the new NHL you need to have decent foot speed.

Marty Reasoner's having an amazing season in Atlanta, and skating has never been a strength for him.

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#12 APE - FMNF
February 18 2009, 07:52AM
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When Reasoner broke into the league I do not think skating was nearly as important as it is today. The league is getting faster and faster ever year.

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#13 Doogie2K
February 18 2009, 10:14AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Spurgeon also served as an assistant captain.

Does the WHL use alternate terminology? I thought it was "alternate" captain.

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#14 Jonathan Willis
February 18 2009, 03:46PM
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APE - FMNF wrote:

When Reasoner broke into the league I do not think skating was nearly as important as it is today. The league is getting faster and faster ever year.

Yes, but he's having an amazing season this year, and I doubt very much his skating has improved from last season.

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#15 Jonathan Willis
February 18 2009, 03:47PM
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Doogie2K wrote:

Jonathan Willis wrote: Spurgeon also served as an assistant captain. Does the WHL use alternate terminology? I thought it was “alternate” captain.

Assistant/alternate; I always get the two mixed up. In this case I just used the terminology in the newspaper clip I was reading.

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#16 john thompson
February 21 2009, 10:10AM
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@ Tencer's Brain Cell: Sorry to disagree but Spurgeon offers a skillset that this team sorry lacks: he is smart, defensively responsible and thinks the game at a very high level. The Oilers have a dearth of players like that. He is also very good in the faceoff circle which is our biggest achilles heel. Spurgeon lacks footspeed and has a history of injuries, if he can make up for the LOF he will make our team and play 10-12 minutes a game. He will also be cheap!!!!

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