To impress Penguins, goal scoring must be part of Daniel Sprong’s game
For the past two or three years, the Pittsburgh Penguins have asked Daniel Sprong, an eminently talented shooter and the organization’s most gifted goal-scoring prospect, to work on his game away from the puck in order to become a more well-rounded player.
Here’s the way coach Mike Sullivan describes the marching orders.
“His scoring ability is evident. His ability to shoot the puck is evident. That jumps out at all of us. But there’s more to the game than just shooting the puck,” Sullivan said. “We’re trying to help Daniel with his overall game on both sides of the puck, both offensively with better understanding of how to support the puck and getting involved on forecheck and things of that nature, and defensively, his awareness away from the puck and his wall play and all those little things that are hard to quantify but add up to winning.”
Sprong has played in three preseason games so far, the first two as part of prospect-laden lineups and the third alongside Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby on the team’s top line.
He has no goals, an assist and five shots on goal. He’s been on the ice for two even-strength goals for and one against.
He hasn’t played poorly, and he has shown an effort at times to get back on defense, but he hasn’t had much success with the puck on his stick.
Is it possible, given his career arc, that the Penguins could be perfectly happy with his performance, even if he doesn’t score, so long as he supports his linemates well and plays responsible defense?
Yeah, probably not.
“We’d like to see him score,” Sullivan said. “That’s an area that we think is a strength of his game. That’s something we’d like to see. As a player, you can’t always control when the puck goes in the net or if it doesn’t, but you can control the process. You can control your ability to generate scoring chances and your involvement in creating opportunity. That’s really where our focus is with Daniel right now.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at email@example.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.