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Reports: Pens to keep Sprong past his 10th game

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be keeping their prized rookie Daniel Sprong for at least the next little while.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It's no huge surprise but reports are coming out that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be keeping 18-year old forward Daniel Sprong past the next major hurdle of his rookie season. From the Post-Gazette:

A team official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed today that the Penguins have no immediate plans to return Sprong to his junior team, Charlottetown of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Sprong has one goal in eight games. When he appears in his ninth, which could happen when the Penguins face Vancouver at Rogers Arena at 10:08 tonight, he will have exhausted the time he can spend in the NHL without burning the first year of his entry-level contract. That would kick in when he dresses for game No. 10.

It's no huge surprise, because just last week Pens GM Jim Rutherford openly said Sprong would stay.

"We're really not looking at any deadlines," he said. "We're just looking at what's best for the team and what's best for him. He's played well. When he gets the puck, he goes to the net. He creates scoring chances.

"He's learning how to play away from the puck, which gets harder and harder to do, especially at this level. It's continuing to develop, and I believe he can help our team."

Sprong has been mainly playing 3rd or 4th line right-wing so far in the NHL.

The next, and final hurdle, will be the 40 game mark, at which point Sprong will accrue a season towards unrestricted free agency.

It's important to note (and remind) that the Penguins could decide to assign Sprong to juniors at any time they want. But once they do, he'll have to stay there for the remainder of the season. But, if they're willing to burn past his 10th game and start the clock on his entry-level contract, it makes sense that they might as well play him up to that 40th game, unless his play dictates that he would be better offer returning sooner.