The Pittsburgh Penguins first pick of the 2015 NHL Draft didn’t come until midway through the second round when they selected Daniel Sprong at 46th overall.
Originally projected to go late in the first round, Sprong slid down to the second round, right into the lap of the Penguins.
The Amsterdam, Netherlands native was very impressive for the Charlottetown Islanders during his draft year. Through the team’s 68 games, Sprong potted 39 goals and 88 points, leading the Islanders to the QMJHL playoffs. Charlottetown would make it to the second round before being eliminated, where Sprong added another seven goals and 11 points in their 10 games.
Heading into the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp, expectations for Sprong will fairly simple. He was expected to compete and gain experience of the NHL life and style of play, but was given a very limited chance at making the team.
However through the Penguins first six preseason games, Sprong has far exceeded any expectations placed upon him. He has found himself in four games so far, tallying two goals and one assist.
A Performance to be Remembered by Penguins Brass
Daniel Sprong really had nothing to lose this Summer with the Penguins. It was nothing short of a certainty that he would be returning to Charlottetown and the QMJHL in October. So, he put everything on the line to give the Penguins management team a reason to remember him.
Through the prospect tournament, Daniel Sprong was often the best player on the ice for the Pens. He played in all three games, two wins and a loss. In each game, Sprong was a consistent threat on the ice, creating tons of scoring chances along the way. He would go on to contribute two goals for the Penguins.
Throughout the tournament, Sprong had plenty of possession of the puck, becoming an offensive threat each time he took the ice. He has a tremendous shot, which is powered by an insane release. He’s also a creative playmaker who sees the ice well, and is able to use his vision to find passing lanes that others would never see.
Into training camp, Sprong continued his impressive showing. He fit right in with the NHL veterans, showing off his speed and offensive instincts. He’s found his way into four preseason games so far, scoring two goals and three points, while firing 16 shots on net, the second highest mark on the team. His efforts have been very consistent each game along the way. Sprong takes charge of the ice and is usually the most noticeable player on the ice, by a long shot. His hockey sense may be his most impressive attribute, often seeing the game a play ahead of his opponents. The way he’s played so far would warrant top-nine time on a stacked Penguins forward depth chart.
What Does Sprong’s Future Hold?
Despite his exceptional efforts throughout the rookie tournament and into training camp and the preseason, Sprong will still very likely be sent back to the QMJHL as part of the Penguins final cut. Perhaps, if he were drafted by a team with very limited offensive depth, he could have played his way into the opening night lineup. But, on the Penguins, there’s simply too much talent up front, with possibly the deepest top-12 in the NHL. It also wouldn’t help Sprong’s game to be playing a third or fourth line role. He must be put into a top-six role where he will have tons of puck possession and opportunities to create scoring chances. The last thing the Penguins want to do is hinder Sprong’s potential by throwing him into the NHL too soon.
If he does return to Charlottetown, he goes back to a talented team that includes Filip Chlapik, the Ottawa Senators 48th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Also there, is goaltender, Mason McDonald, who was drafted 34th overall in 2014 by the Calgary Flames. Sprong would have the potential to challenge for the scoring title in the QMJHL if he’s able to carry over his tremendous training camp.
As for the future, Sprong looks like an early candidate for the steal of this year’s draft. If all goes well, he has a legitimate chance to crack the Penguins roster in the 2016-17 season. He has the potential to be a point producing top-six winger, with excellent goal-scoring abilities. Right now, projecting Sprong to become a 30-goal, 70 point player in the future is not farfetched whatsoever.
When do you think Daniel Sprong will crack the Penguins roster? Let us know in the comments below!