Flames First Round Targets 2015: Daniel Sprong

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:

SCOUTING REPORTS

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.”

THE NUMBERS

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.  

CONCLUSION

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.   

  • BigMcD

    Hope the Flames pass on him; too many red flags in that he doesn’t want to compete (unless he feels like it), doesn’t want to put in the effort to get the puck back, etc.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Baalzamon, I think, asked in a different thread why we aren’t looking at Anthony Beauvillier. His NHLE, unless I’m mistaken, is over 33.3. Sure, he plays left wing/Center, rather than right wing/Center, but hey, nobody is complaining about his compete level. The opposite in fact.

    If the QMJHL interview isn’t done yet, maybe compare the two? Hopefully it doesn’t boil down just to one is bigger than the other.

      • CofRed4Life

        I know that – he is actually ranked around our first second round pick. The question is why is he ranked there while Sprong is 20 – 25 slots higher when his NHLE is actually better.

        Sprong seems like a gamble, albeit one with some serious upside.

    • Byron Bader

      Beauvillier could be a steal in the 2nd round or late 1st. Looking at his expected draft position and NHLe I just assumed he was a d+1 player that was skipped over last year but he’s one of the youngest guys in the draft. His NHLe jumped up by 21 from 16 to 17 too. A 30+ NHLe before 18 and a massive jump like that before even being an over-ager. Holy hell. Yep. This guy should definitely be getting more consideration than early to mid 2nd round.

      He’s average size so that always knocks a guy down a peg or two. Similar frame and similar numbers to Giroux. I’m not sayin but just sayin …

      • The GREAT Walter White

        I really think that if Beauvillier slips very far (and the Flames take a defenseman 15th), the Flames should try to trade up their 2nd rounders to get him.

        • Byron Bader

          Totally agree. Unlike Sprong, he sounds like he’s pretty solid all the way around. A relentless puck pursuit and a guy that will throw the team on his back and lead by example when he needs to. He could be an exceptional later draft pick.

  • everton fc

    Take the Russian kid or Jeremy Roy at #15. People here have said Roy’s skating isn’t the best; all reports I’ve read say his skating and mobility are two of his greatest attributes.

    • Franko J

      Roy’s mobility is great; he’s just slow.

      It’s difficult to wrap your head around, I suppose; I’ll try to make sense.

      His 4-directional mobility is outstanding. He’s very quick, he changes directions without any lag whatsoever, and he gets up to top speed before he’s started taking a second stride. He’s almost as fast skating backwards as forwards.

      That means he’s very good at adjusting to changing situations.

      The problem is he’s not all that fast. When he’s carrying, he can’t really pull away from pursuit. When he’s defending the rush, he could get beat to the outside by a guy like Taylor Hall or Jannik Hansen.

      Fortunately, he’s also very smart. He manages gaps well and he positions himself perfectly. His quickness allows him to close the gap like a trap when the player tries to get by him, and he’s quite strong with a good stick so he has a good chance to either rub the guy out along the boards or strip the puck away.

      I’m one of the guys who mentioned his skating worries me a little. But I’m also the guy who said he’d take Roy days before he took Chabot.

      • BurningSensation

        I should note that it may simply be that Roy seems slow just because of his approach to the game. He’s very patient, almost too patient. I’m no scout, so I guess I can’t tell the difference.

      • On Roy,

        I am not an expert but isn’t the mobility, stride, change of direction more important than speed? What I mean is, can’t you teach speed? It seems like it is just a matter of training and strength. The other things are harder to teach.

        Could be wrong.

        • Franko J

          I would agree. Very little of the game is played in a straight line. The ability to stay with the play and in position, to adjust to plays, is more important than the ability to blow by people on the outside. The question is whether Roy’s speed deficiency is teachable and, if it isn’t, if he’s fast enough that he’ll still be as effective at the next level. I’m inclined to believe Roy’s skating can be improved through some power skating drills and maybe some adjustments to his gait.

  • Könniek

    I’d be okay with taking this guy actually. If he is working towards improving his defencive game, which he is, I don’t see why not, given if meier is taken

  • SmellOfVictory

    As a prospect I like him less than most of the other guys at that area (Zboril, Roy, Chabot, Svechnikov, Meier), but his last name is pretty amazing.

  • BurningSensation

    Probably just my Dutch ancestry bleeding through, but I LOVE this kid.

    Calgary (and most other teams) could use a natural RW, one-touch shooter, with big wheels in the system.

    That said, I still prefer Svechnikov.

  • Graham

    He might learn these things, but historically the ‘lacks in the defensive department’ type of guys don’t fare well with Calgary’s system, or with our coaches.

  • Byron Bader

    I like Sprong…. maybe not at #15 but if he slips into the 2nd round then for sure!

    Don’t get me wrong – a team needs the two-way guys, the 200′ players etc but I’m kind of bored with those guys – the fan in me wants a pure sniper. A game changer that can put other teams on their heels.

    Rather than another guy that does a lot of things well, i want a guy that is elite in a few areas like Sprong.

    For what it’s worth Pronman thinks he has top 10 talent.

  • KiLLKiND

    Personally I think he can and will become better at all areas in time but he will be truly great at scoring goals. I agree with another post earlier saying we need a few elite players in a category instead of all 2 way players. Having an elite finisher to play with Bennett would be perfect who cares if his defense could use work with Gaudreau and Bennett feeding him or Svechnikov I would be thrilled with either. Chabot and Roy I don’t believe are worthy of being picked so high at 15 maybe Roy but the only D I think is worth taking at that point is Zboril. He will most likely be gone so an elite finisher will be the best player available. Then it just depends on who our scouts like more.

  • Franko J

    So many prospects not enough picks to select them all. Although the Flames have 6 selections in the top 100 I count at least 8 or 9 prospects that could be a good fit for the Flames.

  • The Last Big Bear

    He’s got the counting stats, he’s got the awesome name… If he’s got the flow, he could be a legit 1st rounder.

    Nobody who saw Monahan’s salad could have ever had any doubt about his NHL future…