What To Expect From Daniel Sprong In The 2021-22 Season

Image: YouTube/Capitals

By acquiring Daniel Sprong from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Christian Djoos on February 24, 2020, the Capitals added a forward to a prospect pool that, at the time, was lacking scoring depth. After Sprong’s inaugural season in DC, the Capitals seem to have finally found a player that can fill the hole in the lineup vacated by Brett Connolly when he left in free agency in the 2019 off-season.

Scoring Prowess

In 42 games played last season, Sprong contributed 13 goals and seven assists for 20 points. That puts Sprong’s goals scored per 60 minutes (G/60) during five-on-five play at 1.71. The only player in the league with a minimum of 400 minutes of time on ice to have a higher G/60 of play was Connor McDavid, with 1.94.

Statistics used in this post are courtesy of Evolving-Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, Hockey-Reference, MoneyPuck, and JFreshHockey. A glossary of advanced analytical terms is also available.

Here is Sprong’s player card, courtesy of JFreshHockey:

As expected, due to Sprong’s G/60 being very high during five-on-five play, Sprong is in the upper echelon in that metric in the NHL. His finishing rate is also extremely high. This is largely due to his stout shooting talent, which Money Puck measures at 21.5% above average.

Defensive Woes

Something to keep an eye on is his quality of competition (QoC), which is pretty low on the scale at 22%. This means that he’s not consistently matched up against other teams’ top players, and as a result, he’ll typically have better chances to score. This could be fine if the Capitals deploy him more in a third line role. If he moves onto the second line, he would most certainly face higher QoC.

Also, a common criticism of Sprong’s overall game is his defensive ability. He’s not known for being defensively responsible, and was ultimately benched in the postseason because of that. He also saw greatly reduced minutes in the third period of close games, so it’s not necessarily unexpected to see his percentile this low.

Overall

Overall though, coming in at 86% in the WAR percentile is really solid considering his ice time and cap hit. Here’s Evolving-Hockey’s player card for Sprong:

Evolving-Hockey’s model represents a lot of similarities with JFresh’s model. Sprong is really strong offensively at even strength, but struggles, defensively. One interesting point is that all of Sprong’s production came at even strength. He received relatively low time on ice during the power play, which should probably change given Sprong’s above average shooting talent.

Optimized Lines

Overall, Sprong should add depth scoring to a lineup that surely needs it. If Sprong was on a line with some more defensively responsible linemates, that would serve him and the team well.

Let’s take a look at some possible line deployments for Sprong.

It seems likely that the Sheary, Eller, and Sprong line will be the third line going into the season. The trio didn’t have a lot of ice time together during five-on-five play last season, but the underlying metrics were pretty solid when they were deployed together. The GF% is a bit skewed because they only gave up three goals compared to two scored.

The real takeaway here is that Sprong has solid numbers in any of the deployments above. He’ll help spread some of the depth scoring, and if he were to be deployed in the top six forward group, he’d be able to perform capably.

Summary

Sprong is a very capable offense-first scoring forward that can provide depth scoring for the Capitals that they’ve been missing since Brett Connolly left in free agency in the summer of 2019. Sprong is a commodity offensively since he can slide into any of the top three lines and perform with all three of the centers for those lines. For a team that’s aging, the utility aspect that Sprong provides offensively will be mighty useful when there’s an injury to a top six winger.

By Justin Trudel

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager at a non-profit in Jacksonville, FL. Justin enjoys geeking out over roster construction and cap management.
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6 Responses to What To Expect From Daniel Sprong In The 2021-22 Season

  1. Anonymous says:

    I struggle to see Sprong on the third line/bottom six under Laviolette’s system, only because he is a firm believer in having bottom six be checking/defensive lines. He didn’t seem to waiver from that philosophy at all last season, which made Spring the odd man out, unless there was room in top six. I feel your idea of pairing him with two very defensively sound forwards would work, but don’t see Laviolette changing his ways. Hopefully he does.

    • I hope Laviolette spreads scoring talent through his top nine forward group, since the offensive skill is there. The top six is very offensively focused, but having a balanced third line and a shutdown fourth line would work out pretty well.

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  3. redLitYogi says:

    Sprong looked great with Backstrom with Sheary on the left wing. That’s a combo I’d like to see played when the Caps need a goal. Or, substitute Mantha for Sheary there. When Sprong replace Ovechkin on the Kuznetsov line he was lights out: 4 goals in like three games? He can snipe. After Ovechkin, he is most likely the best pure goal scoring winger we have. I think he needs to play with one of Kuznetsov or Backstrom.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I expect from Sprong 20 goals and 40+ points if he gets 82 games

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