Daniel Sprong is a Dutch-born RW from Amsterdam that was raised in Canada (moving to Montreal at age seven to aid his hockey development). He stands 6’0” and 190 pounds and projects to be a skilled winger that electrifies offensively. His speed and shiftiness sets him apart from his peers. The kid has wheels and can get away from opponents in a hurry.
He finished 14th in QMJHL scoring; 5th among similarly-aged, draft eligible, peers. Last year, Sprong was the only 16 year old in the entire CHL to score 30 goals. Offensively, he is by far and away Charlottetown’s best player and has lots of offensive jam. On the other hand, Sprong apparently strives to play well in the defensive zone as well although various scouting reports would indicate, today, he’s not very good at this part.
Here’s what the scouting reports say about Sprong:
Shawn Reznik at Hockey Writers wrote: “Sprong has smooth dangles … it looks like he’s heading one way, but changes strides on a dime and creates openings through the neutral zone … Sprong has a lightning quick release making his wrister absolutely devastating. Offensively, he’s one of the more dangerous prospects with the puck on his blade
“He lacks in the defensive department … for as quick as he is on his skates, he doesn’t seem to hustle much to get back into the play. He’ll coast around the ice waiting for breakout passes instead of being a responsible player. Sprong tens to be trigger happy and a bit selfish at times with the puck”
Draft Buzz Hockey wrote: “Daniel Sprong is the kind of one dimensional player you find yourself making excuses for the more he flashes that one dimension … With wide shoulders, Sprong carries himself with Alpha male qualities that scream top line difference maker. Elusive and fast, he cuts into the ice sharply demonstrating a skating ability that allows him to be a constant threat. Once he has the puck, he can deke with the best of them as well as dish it with accuracy. His shots are not terribly hard but they are sneaky and frequently snapped in screens/off quick movements.
Getting the puck presents a bit of a challenge for Sprong, as he can get too comfortable on the perimeter waiting around or even coming to a standstill. Unlike some of the top forwards, he doesn’t give off 100% confidence that he will retain the puck at times simply because he needs to get stronger and show more compete.”
Good Signs: I’m a big believer in using a player’s NHLe to guide what kind of offensive threat a player is going to turn into. The threshold that indicates a player has the tools to be an offensive threat in the NHL is an NHle of 30+. The younger you hit it the better. By my calculation (0.29 equivalency), Sprong has an NHLe of 30.1 so he meets the 30+ threshold and he hit the threshold just barely after turning 18 … all really good signs. Fittingly, given the Flames draft position, Sprong’s NHLe is the 16th highest NHLe of all North American eligible draftees (including all CHL teams, NCAA, USHL and USHS as well as over-agers). Take the over-agers out of it and he has the 13th highest equivalency in a very deep draft.
Second, he shoots a lot! On average, he takes just over four shots a game, which puts him 4th in the league. Goals by a 17 year old in the Q … he’s also 4th. A dynamic point-producer that shoots from everywhere is always a good sign.
Third, Sprong registered a primary point on 86% of his 88 points. The next closest point total to him on Charlottetown was 75, set by Filip Chlapik, another probably 2015 1st rounder. Only 71% of Chlapik’s points were primary, despite playing with Sprong for the majority of the season. Among 17 year olds, Sprong was 2nd to only Timo Meier in terms of team point %, being in on 39% of his teams points. He is no doubt a driving force, offensively, on his team.
Red Flags: While there’s some mixed reviews, it sounds like Sprong is not an elite two-way player by any stretch. I’ve read that he thrives on his defensive game and shutting other players down but I’ve also read he’s unwilling to compete and sometimes floats around in the neutral zone waiting for a play to develop. Perhaps he has a defensive component to his game but he doesn’t like to engage it as much as his offensive side? If he really does want to get better and is motivated to become a player that works in all three zones is one thing but if he has no interest in it it’s a whole different ball game.
Also, only 46 of Sprong’s 88 points came at even strength. A rule of thumb is it’s a concern if a player scores over 40% of his points on the PP. Sprong registered 48% of his points on the PP, which is very, very high. This could speak to the comments that suggest that Sprong is unwilling to go fish out the puck from the dirty areas and tends to capitalize more when he has tons of time and space. However, Charlottetown was not a very good team, having been out scored in many games as well as having the 2nd highest shots against in the Q. Therefore, the team’s saving grace might have been the powerplay and Sprong would have been used heavily there.
Sprong tics off a lot of boxes for me. He’s a good-sized, natural RW (that actually shoots right); he hits the equivalency threshold that suggests that he could be an impact point producer in the NHL; he is the driving offensive force on his team rather than a player riding the coattails of a teammate or two. However, his ES/PP splits are concerning but that could just be a representation of how bad his team was rather than any wart on himself as a talent. As well, his defensive game also sounds like it needs a lot of work.
Sprong, in interviews, has indicated that he’s motivated to get better there. Is this just lip service to tell teams what they want to hear or is this something he’s willing to put the hours in and really improve at. The answer could make or break a long NHL career. He and his family moved to Canada to pursue his hockey career at a very young age so I have to think he’s ready to put in the work to make it up the final mountain.
Overall, at 15th overall, if slightly higher-caliber guys like Timo Meier are gone and a forward is what they’re looking for, Sprong looks like a pretty solid mid-round 1st rounder depending on his motivations to improve his all around game.