In one of the NHL trade deadline’s more understated moves, the Seattle Kraken traded away Marcus Johansson to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Daniel Sprong and a pair of mid-round draft picks. Sprong has shown flashes of becoming a dependable scoring winger but has yet to cement a regular place in an NHL lineup. With Seattle in dire need of a greater scoring punch, Sprong could finally make good on his offensive potential. As his playing history in the junior and minor leagues have suggested, an expanded role within the Kraken’s lineup could set up a breakout campaign in the 2022-23 season. Let’s dig in.
Sprong Poised To Break Out Offensively
As a second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins back in the 2015 Entry Draft, Sprong carries a bit of a pedigree. He tallied 141 goals in 237 regular-season and playoff games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and added 44 more in 109 American Hockey League (AHL) regular season games. He’s yet to replicate that astonishing rate of production in the NHL, only scoring 42 times in 188 games spread over six seasons. Still, his underlying metrics at 5-on-5 suggests that he’s poised to erupt offensively. In the below table, Sprong’s rank among qualified forwards (minimum 200 minutes played at 5v5) is in parentheses. He spent most of the 2019-20 season in the AHL, meaning he did not meet the time-on-ice threshold for that season.
|Shots/60||9.28 (43)||8.94 (40)||10.6 (17)|
|Goals/60||1.00 (74)||1.71 (2)||0.95 (91)|
|Expected Goals/60||0.78 (98)||0.68 (143)||0.93 (46)|
|Scoring Chances/60||7.46 (186)||7.23 (151)||11.65 (10)|
As the table indicates, Sprong has been operating at a top-six level for a number of seasons across several offensive categories. He has clearly improved across the board year over year, and is challenging goaltenders more often from dangerous areas. It’s important to note that these are statistics from 5v5 play. He’s not a beneficiary of the numerical advantage inherent to the power play, he’s scoring and creating good looks at even strength.
According to Corey Sznajder’s manually tracked data, Sprong profiles as an intriguing offensive dual-threat. In his time with the Washington Capitals this season prior to the trade, Sprong ranked second on the team in shots per-60, behind the one and only Alexander Ovechkin. He was above-average relative to the league in terms of shot assists (the final pass before a shot is taken) and is able to regularly facilitate clean offensive zone entries (skating into the zone with possession of the puck).
Whether it’s because of a less developed defensive game or being stuck behind more established players on the depth chart, his deployment hasn’t matched up with the numbers under the hood. Sometimes, a change of scenery is all a player needs to fulfill their potential. If he is utilized higher up in the lineup with skilled linemates, his best attributes are appropriately complemented. An incisive playmaker such as center Yanni Gourde could be just the key to unlocking Sprong’s scoring touch. Gourde is by far Seattle’s best passer, completing 13.7 shot assists per-60 at 5v5.
Sprong’s First Two Kraken Games Suggest The Best Is Yet To Come
For every player looking to make a good first impression with their new team, scoring in their first game is sure to do the trick. In Sprong’s case, he’s scored in each of his first two appearances with the Kraken, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Even so, head coach Dave Hakstol hasn’t fully unleashed him, with the winger being handed some of the lowest ice time on the team.
In his Kraken debut against the Arizona Coyotes, Sprong played the second-fewest 5v5 minutes among the team’s forwards but was given nearly two minutes of power-play time. Even with the limited deployment, he tied for third in shots at 5v5. Sprong’s ice time in his second game followed the same script, only playing more than Joonas Donskoi among Kraken forwards but given a similar ratio of power-play time. He finished with two shots, second among the team’s forwards.
Hakstol’s hesitancy is understandable to some degree. Sprong just joined the team and has yet to establish trust with the coaching staff. Still, his per-60-minute stats depict a player waiting for a greater opportunity to flex his offensive muscle. The productive efficiency doesn’t always translate when given more ice time as it’s more difficult to sustain a high level of performance against stronger competition, but Sprong deserves a look nonetheless.
Two games are an extremely small sample size and it’s unwise to glean any sort of definitive conclusions from them, but Sprong has been the team’s most dangerous forward over those two appearances. Remember, the following stats are cumulative across all situations, and Sprong has been used sparingly at even strength.
|Ice Time (Minutes)||26||14th|
Seattle’s competitive reality means that there is no reason to try and experiment ahead of next season. They sit 31st overall in the league standings and should be more preoccupied with obtaining the best odds for the upcoming draft lottery. If they can uncover a solid NHL contributor in the process, they can better set themselves up for future success.
Sprong Has 20-Goal Potential With The Kraken
Sprong remains a restricted free agent (RFA) at season’s end, meaning that the Kraken retain control over his next contract. A short-term, show-me-type deal is the best-case scenario for both sides. Sprong has a chance to capitalize on a shallow forward pool, and the Kraken could mine 20-plus goals from someone making less than $1 million next season. Seeing as how the Vegas Golden Knights banked on breakout seasons from unheralded players to power their early success, it’s not a bad formula to follow. Could the 25-year-old Dutchman be Seattle’s version of William Karlsson?