clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Daniel Sprong isn’t making an NHL impact anytime soon

New, comments

Got your hopes up on the Penguins talented youngster making a Guentzel-esque impact this year? Probably should roll that back a bit

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The last two times the Pittsburgh Penguins have suffered a forward injury (including over the weekend when it was announced Carter Rowney is out week-to-week with an undisclosed upper body injury) the choice for a call-up has been Josh Jooris.

Jooris is the type of player coaches love. He’s got experience (207 career NHL games) and the versatility to play any forward position fairly reliably. He’s not a game-breaker or an exciting talent, but Jooris is a guy who can be plugged into the 4th line and give some decent minutes as the other top-9 guys get a breather. He did that well in 2 games for the Pens earlier in the month.

One player often clamored for is Daniel Sprong. Sprong however is being slow-played in his development.

Interestingly this scratch comes one day after Sprong scored a goal on Saturday night against Hartford. It was just his 2nd goal in his last 17 AHL games. Player progression and development is not a steady upward line, there’s bumps and stops and starts and it can be messy.

One thing the Pens were accused of was frequent recalls and demotions and low NHL minutes for highly touted players like Beau Bennett and Derrick Pouliot in the past. So it’s become trendy for Pittsburgh fans to mention them in talking about Sprong. Other than not sticking in the NHL immediately the trio have little in common at the current moment.

Sprong, due to his contract situation, is not waiver-eligible next season. So it stands to reason next year is going to be a sink or swim situation that will see him get plenty of NHL chances to show he belongs. This year the youngster is going to get the development opportunities in the AHL to prime him for that chance. Given the top-9 forward group that Pittsburgh has, this is probably the smartest play.

..If anything, train your sights and hopes for a youthful addition in Zach Aston-Reese who is getting closer to a return. Aston-Reese is older, more accomplished and has a better skill-set for a bottom-six role and a playoff style nose for the net that could come in handy.

***

Good to see that Bill Guerin won’t be going to Carolina. There are rumors that the Hurricanes are only offering $400k for this GM position and that is in part driving away some of the bigger candidates out there. It will be interesting to see if the league adjusts to the new owner or if he will adjust to the league.

Regardless, Guerin definitely has to be considered the front-runner to be the next Pens job at this point, though it remains to be seen when that job will be open. Jim Rutherford is 69 years old but has shown no signs of slowing down, and given the run the team has been on why would he? It’s difficult to imagine given his past comments that Rutherford wouldn’t want to be the general manager in 2018-19. And at this point one would think Pens executive management like David Morehouse, Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle will be more than happy to have Rutherford around for as long as he cares to keep working.

So it will be interesting to see if or when Guerin might be poached by another team in the interim.

***

Speaking of Aston-Reese and Guerin, the assistant GM might be busy in the coming weeks as the NCAA hockey season winds down and some undrafted free agents (like ZAR last year) will soon be signing with teams.

With the Penguins often trading their high draft picks, signing college FA’s has become a new method to add talent to the organization. In addition to Aston-Reese, Pittsburgh has acquired Rowney, Casey DeSmith and Conor Sheary in this fashion, as well as been finalists to sign players like Jimmy Vesey and Will Butcher. It’s paid off well for Pittsburgh and will be a route that they need to continue to go down.

One name that might be added to the list could be Penn State’s Andrew Sturtz, seen here with this beauty of a toe-drag.

Sturtz is no stranger to the Pens as he has been invited to prospect camps before.

Guerin also seems like a fan, telling the PG recently, “That kid is all in, all of the time. I haven’t seen too many kids play the game harder than him at the college level.”

The other key player to watch is Minnesota St. Mankato’s Daniel Brickley. Brickley has ideal size (6’3, 203 pounds) and is a left-handed defenseman who put up 35 points (10g+25a) in 39 games this season with 53 penalty minutes. The soon-to-be 23 year old is probably close to NHL ready, and the Pens defensive depth chart basically has no real NHL caliber prospects in the 20-25 year old range which could make Pittsburgh a very attractive place to be for Brickley given how players like Justin Schultz and Jamie Oleksiak have flourished.