If Daniel Sprong’s two impressive seasons in junior are any indication, he could be a hidden gem in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Registering 68 points in 67 games as a freshman, he landed a spot on the QMJHL’s All-Rookie Team last season and he followed that up by setting career highs in goals (39) and assists (49) in 68 games this season.
An offensive-minded forward who is still growing and beginning to throw around his body on the ice more frequently, Sprong has a promising future and should end up a first-round pick.
Here’s what you need to know about the skilled Charlottetown Islanders forward.
Position: Right Wing
Weight: 180 pounds
From: Amsterdam, Netherlands
NHL Central Scouting Rank (North America): No. 20
Marek’s Take: Has one of the best releases in the entire draft and likes to shoot from everywhere. His one-on-one skills are excellent and Sprong has fantastic lateral movement especially coming out of the corner. Needs to work on managing the puck better and making plays based more on the score of the game. Comparison: Phil Kessel. Both have a shoot-first mentality and both need help with their game away from the puck.
He is from Holland. Isn’t that weird?…
Sprong can become the first Dutch-born NHLer in about 30 years — and the first one not named Ed! Ed Beers, although raised in B.C., was born in Zwaag and played 250 NHL games split between the Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues beginning in the 1981-82 season until 1986 when his career was cut short due to injury. The other is Ed Kea of Weesp — he too was raised in Canada from a young age — who oddly enough spent his NHL career split between the Atlanta Flames and Blues from 1974-83.
Imagine if either the Flames or Blues select Sprong. Whoa.
His parents moved to Canada so he could pursue hockey…
The Sprongs moved to Montreal when Daniel was seven. As Sprong explained to Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce in this November feature, a major factor in his family moving to Canada was so he could pursue a career in hockey because he showed such promise at a young age.
“My father [Hanni Sprong] had been with the [Dutch] national team as a player,” Sprong said. “Before we came over, he managed a hockey team in Holland. I would go to the rink with my father and I just fell in love with the game when I was little. He worked with me on my skills, but [youth hockey] in Amsterdam wasn’t very good. Our family’s friends would say that if I was going to become a player I’d have to go to Canada.”
He has trained with NHL stars…
Last summer, while working to improve on his quality rookie season with the Islanders, Sprong spent time in the Greater Toronto Area where he enlisted the help of strength and conditioning expert Andy O’Brien. During that time Sprong trained with some of O’Brien’s other clients including John Tavares and Jason Spezza.
“I’ve stayed in touch with some of them. Just the other day, John Tavares texted me to see how I was doing. Sometimes I stop and wonder, ‘Is this real?’” Sprong said.
He reminds people of Patrick Kane…
Sprong won’t be a No. 1 pick like Kane was in 2007. In fact, he’s unlikely to be a top-10 pick and could fall outside the top 20, but the skill set he possesses is reminiscent of Kane’s. Soft hands and the ability to make high-level skill plays at full speed, plus a wicked shot. Here’s a sample of his work from when he was a rookie in the Q.
His bantam season was spent on the road…
Sprong spent most of his bantam season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, a travelling team in the Atlantic Metro Hockey League, where he averaged 2.91 points per game and was teammates with projected top-10 pick Ivan Provorov. The two played against each other at the Top Prospects Game this year. Sprong, representing Team Cherry, was actually on the receiving end of a huge hit from Team Orr’s Provorov in that game.
He knows where he needs to improve…
The one area Sprong must improve if he wishes to be an NHL regular within the next few years is his defensive play. It’s something Sprong focused on improving this season.
“I’m offensive-minded, and I think of that first before defence sometimes,” Sprong told NHL.com. “Maybe leaving the zone too early to get a breakaway, thinking ahead a little bit. I’m working at being better in the d-zone, and my goal is to be a 200-foot player and a threat in all three zones.”
He wants to represent Team Canada one day…
Despite the fact he’s Dutch, he has never represented the Netherlands at an international tournament — mostly because the Dutch never qualify for the top tournaments and Sprong is simply too good to spend time competing in tier two tourneys. He is in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen and this means he could potentially represent his adopted country at future tournaments.
“It would be great to put on the Canadian sweater someday,” he said.