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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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