Saturday, the morning after Daniel Sprong recorded his second hat trick of the season, the 2015 second round draft pick (46th overall) was recalled by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sprong, 20, is the second leading goal scorer in the AHL and leads the WBS Penguins in goals and points (18g, 10a). The Amsterdam, Netherlands born Sprong has two goals in 18 career NHL games but has not played in the NHL since December 2015.
Sprong, who played junior hockey for the Charlottetown Islanders in the QMJHL, has been a fan favorite with gaudy offensive statistics but has only recently begun to earn the trust of coaches. He was a healthy scratch last month, despite the offensive output.
Sprong, 6-0 and 180-pounds, had six points in his last two AHL games. His first NHL goal was on October 20, 2015.
Sprong made the Penguins opening night roster in 2015-16, and stayed past his nine-game tryout period. The decision to keep Sprong for more than nine games cost the Penguins the first of his three-year entry-level contract.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were beaten by the Carolina Hurricanes last night, 2-1. Offense, especially at even strength, has been a rare commodity for the Penguins. 10 days ago, PHN contributor Joe Steigerwald detailed the historical nature of the Penguins futility. Things have not improved much since then.
Dominik Simon, who played on the fourth line last night, was sent to WBS to make room for Sprong. Simon had two assists in six NHL games.
The Penguins continue to eschew energy players. Simon brought a spark to the fourth line and a little bit of offense.
After watching the first 40 minutes of WBS win last night, Sprong is better positionally and away from the puck than he previously was.
However, Sprong is still in danger of being eaten alive by NHL competition.
For example, near the end of the first period in last night’s game against the Hartford Wolfpack, Sprong floated towards the center of the ice and did not get in position for a breakout pass. The result was an icing call, which gave the Wolfpack offensive zone time. Sprong failed to defend the point or the passing lane, which resulted in a wide-open scoring chance for Joe Whitney in the left wing circle. Whitney easily scored.
Those were costly mistakes.
Sprong did show some good neutral zone play and transition later in the game.
If the Penguins feel he is ready, they picked the right time. The NHL team certainly isn’t scoring goals.
If the Penguins are getting desperate and are hoping a call to the show will polish Sprong’s rough edges, things will get worse for the Pittsburgh Penguins, not better.
Also, do not discount the showcase factor. PHN reported yesterday, the Penguins could deal a young winger, and a source with direct knowledge specifically used Sprong’s name.
The New Years Eve game just got more fun, didn’t it?