Daniel Sprong’s AHL coach: ‘He’s going to have a big year’ in the NHL for the Penguins
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said he expects elite scorer Daniel Sprong to be an NHL regular this upcoming season. His actions in jettisoning wingers Conor Sheary and Tom Kuhnhackl out of the organization support that notion, too.
Add Sprong’s coach this past season with the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to those who believe Sprong is ready.
“I think he has a fine future,” Clark Donatelli said, referring to the wing’s NHL prospects. “And he’s going to have a big year next year.”
The Penguins’ top draft pick in 2015, Sprong has 38 goals in 78 AHL games (counting the playoffs). He’s had two brief stints in the NHL, scoring four times in 26 games while getting limited ice time.
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At 21, the time would seem to be right for Sprong to join the Penguins for a full season. But as talented of a scorer as he is, questions have long persisted about the other aspects of his game.
According to Donatelli, those were addressed during this past season in Wilkes-Barre. Donatelli also believes that spending virtually an entire season in the AHL will ultimately end up being for the best in regards to Sprong’s longterm development.
“We know he can play. He had some hard times and persevered through it,” Donatelli said. “And he grew as a player, and I think if you ask him he’s tell you that from the time he came in to the time he left, he’s a lot more confident as a whole hockey player, offensively and defensively, just his whole game. His approach and how to be a pro, just from being around (veteran AHL captain Tom Kostopoulus) and some of the leadership group down there, he’s (better) in how to prepare mentally on and off the ice.”
Sprong, the No. 46 overall pick in 2015, had 117 goals in 199 junior games.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.