Daniel Sprong went from being a part of a minor league trade to finding a home on the Washington Capitals roster. And to take things a step further, he’s made quite a case for himself as a permanent top-6 talent.
Washington acquired Sprong from Anaheim in 2018-19 in exchange for Christian Djoos. Djoos wasn’t fitting in well on the backend, and Sprong, who had found mild success with Anaheim following ups and downs with Pittsburgh, couldn’t find consistency at the NHL level. Ultimately, it appeared a change of scenery could work wonders for both players, and at the very least, the deal would turn out to be a decent, depth-building minor-league swap.
It turned out to be much more than that for Washington. The 2015 second-rounder put on a show in 2020-21 with 13 goals and 20 points in 42 games. His scoring rate would have put him on pace for 25 goals in a regular 82-game campaign, and he finished second on the team in even-strength goals (tied with Conor Sheary).
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“Sprong had a good year this year. He’s a good, young player, looking to get him more ice time,” general manager Brian MacLellan said in May. “…I think there’s an opportunity to add youth to the lineup.”
Over the course of the regular season, he evidently became more confident in his play. He showcased his impressive skating and lethal shot, as well as his hockey IQ. His play spoke volumes as he made quick and smart decisions on the fly, including when to pass and when to shoot.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) March 10, 2021
Peter Laviolette ultimately rewarded him with more ice time and even put him on the top line after Alex Ovechkin was injured down the stretch. The Netherlands native capitalized on his opportunity at No. 1 LW, posting four goals in his first three games as the Great 8’s understudy.
“I think it’s important that he continues to push… He’s a guy who’s trying to make the most of his opportunities,” Laviolette said.
Going forward, consistency and continued growth from Sprong will prove vital for Washington. While Anthony Mantha is a solid addition at RW, the departure of Jakub Vrana left a major void in secondary scoring on the left side. Not to mention, the expansion draft and Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s situation weigh heavy on the top-6 heading into next season. Here’s what the current forward lines look like.
With the exception of Nicklas Backstrom, all of these players are potential Seattle picks. Of course, given Alex Ovechkin’s pending free agency, he’s more likely safe than not. Still, that’s a handful of talented players that are potentially up for grabs.
That being said, Sprong is poised to take on a bigger role next season. He’s a great playmaker and natural scorer whose best is yet to come. His tremendous upside is promising, but it all comes down to Sprong continuing to expand his horizons. If he can do that, he’ll be one of the Capitals’ top performers in the coming years.