During the formation of this Top 10 list, in which Johan Larsson was just announced as #9, Nate and I kicked around a bunch of names.
And we argued about where they should go. Quite a bit. Sometimes at odd times of the day.
But there was one name we never brought up; NOT ONCE.
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You know, the same 21 year old whose whirlwind year went like this: wasn't signed by the Islanders, who drafted him 156th overall in 2008. He got an invite to Wild Development Camp, then to Traverse City, then Training Camp, and a 3-year Entry Level Contract. He went to Houston, where he played 21 games until he was called up to the big club...and he never left. He had 4 goals and 12 points in 53 games, before heading back to Houston for their stretch run into the Calder Cup Finals, where he had a goal and 11 points in 21 games.
Yet, somehow someway...his name was never brought up in our (sometimes) contentious dialogue about who deserves to be ranked higher in this list.
It doesn't make sense on a couple levels; his age, his NHL experience (53 games, I mean its not like he's got a couple seasons under his belt,) the fact that he came out of nowhere (big time kudos to Brent Flahr and his Staff for snatching up Spurgeon right away after the Isles cut him loose.) Or how about that he's still got room for improvement?
Shouldn't these things still qualify him as a Minnesota Wild Prospect?!?
While technically true, its in the way Spurgeon went about playing his 53 games in a Wild Sweater- he was every bit as solid as a seasoned vet, and played like he belonged despite being 5'9"...and 21. While he's not as dynamic and explosive a skater as a scout would prefer to see from a kid his size, he has just crazy hockey smarts; he showed that he knew how to take a hit from on oncoming forward, made great first passes, and calmly moved the puck out of the zone; by season's end he was on the point quarterbacking the power play, which was something he excelled at in Spokane of the Western Hockey League- you know, things he's had to do in order to progress from level to level of hockey. He never lost his game at any point, like Justin Falk did; he never got hurt and had to miss time, nor be a healthy scratch (to my sometimes foggy recollection.) He made it hard to take him out of the lineup- not just that, but you could see as the season went on he became more confident with the puck; and for a team whose blueline looks to be a bit on the neutered side this fall, any added offense from him could be a huge boon to the team's fortunes.
And its because of this, albeit a small sample size, that subconsciously gave Nate and I the impression that he is a lock for a roster spot out of Training Camp this Fall (despite what I wrote the other day.) We just don't anticipate a sophomore slump, or a bad Training Camp; in a way Spurgeon lost his prospect status during the year and now we look at him as something else all together- a full-fledged roster player now.