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Revisiting the Marcus Pettersson for Daniel Sprong trade

It hasn’t been too long but let’s check in on Daniel Sprong and the Ducks

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins traveled to California yesterday and don’t practice until later in the day since they’re on the west coast. There’s no game until late tomorrow night. There’s not too much by the way of activity going on in Pens world at the moment.

So let’s just open up a can of worms, eh?

The first team Pittsburgh plays tomorrow is the Anaheim Ducks. Pittsburgh and Anaheim completed a trade on December 3rd that swapped a pair of young players. 21-year old forward Daniel Sprong went west and the Pens received 22-year old defenseman Marcus Pettersson. You can’t really give a final verdict to a trade that happened five weeks ago, and that’s not the intention at all. Sprong has been such a hot-button topic over the years it’s always going to be of interest to track his career and watch what he does (or doesn’t) develop into, so we might as well take a peak to revisit what’s been learned over the past month+ as his career got a new chance on a new team.


Games Goals Assists Points Shots PIMs Time On Ice Plus/Minus 5v5 Points ES P/60 GF/60 GA/60
Games Goals Assists Points Shots PIMs Time On Ice Plus/Minus 5v5 Points ES P/60 GF/60 GA/60
15 5 1 6 44 4 15:00 -5 2 0.64 3.08 1.54
18 0 6 6 19 13 16:03 11 4 0.91 3.19 0.91
Sprong and Pettersson new team stats

The beauty of Daniel Sprong is that you can project whatever you want on to his performance and feel good about it. Since getting to Anaheim he’s on a 27-goal pace if you string it out to a full 82-game season. That’s impressive. Sprong’s finest moment was a tremendous flash of brilliance on December 15th against Columbus when he provided all of the Ducks offense, scoring two goals in a 2-1 win against Columbus. The game-winner coming in overtime on a dazzling shot.

At the same time, though, his game is incomplete. Sure there’s that one big time moment, but the long time knock and knack from Pittsburgh was consistency on a game-to-game basis. Sprong has gone quiet for long stretches in Anaheim, just as he did in Pittsburgh. It’s great to have that game he had against Columbus, or the one last year against the Islanders where he scored three points, but what happens next? Does disappearing for a while make a difference?

Sprong has but one assist (a secondary power play assist recorded against the Penguins no less) in 15 games in Anaheim. That’s not very encouraging. Also for the hopes his biggest supporters had about “give him good linemates and enough ice-time and he’ll produce”, he’s only produced two 5v5 points in 15 games, despite typically playing on the second line with Adam Henrique and Nick Ritchie. Maybe it’s bad luck and their shooting % is low so perhaps that will change but Henrique especially has had his goals for tank since pairing up with Sprong.

Sprong no doubt has made strides though. His 44 SOG in Anaheim is way more than the 16 SOG in 16 games in Pittsburgh. Also, as we noted, Sprong never even took as much as one minor penalty in his career as a Penguin, was he that clean of a player or a bit disengaged and needed to battle harder? He’s already taken two penalties in Anaheim, so perhaps his compete level has been raised with the new change of scenery.

And to emphasize, again it is still early and no final opinions on the matter really should be held. There’s plenty of time for Sprong to carve out a niche, succeed and establish himself as a productive NHL scorer. There’s also plenty of time for him to flounder, float and sooner or later have to deal with getting demoted back to lesser linemates and opportunity.

As we’ve said all along, the biggest part of the decision to trade Sprong would be whether or not Mike Sullivan was correct in the analysis that he obviously developed in not having much use for Sprong in his game lineups. So far, Sullivan seems to be justified in his outlook. Sprong doubtlessly has the talent to score more than most in the NHL, yet at 0.63 5v5 P/60 with the Ducks, he hasn’t really shown it just yet despite having a couple of glorious moments.

In that regard, though it’s been five weeks, it’s really still the same old story for Sprong so far.

And, there’s another factor in the equation too:

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Pettersson has probably started better than most imagined. Initially the Pens brass compared the lanky Swede to a potential Brian Dumoulin type of defensive defenseman if he continued to develop. That’s a hopeful comparison, but exactly one that the organization and player should strive for. Not many players end up being as good as Dumoulin, but certainly the parallels with Pettersson are logical; both have big frames, can move around the ice well and leverage their reach to be able and use their stick defensively in an advantageous way. Neither has great offensive instincts or much of a shot, though both can make a decent outlet pass to start breakouts.

At the same time, it should be acknowledged that Pettersson has had a pretty charmed start to his Pittsburgh career including good fortune for partial events out of his control. Timing in life is everything and when he came aboard, the goalie play shifted. He’s benefited from a .970 5v5 save% so far, which isn’t going to last forever. Despite being on ice for 50 high danger scoring chances against, only two have resulted in goals. It’ll be fun to ride that wave for as long as it lasts, but the steady observer will expect some regression in that regard at some point.

That warning aside, Pettersson’s actual performance has been solid. He’s also settled in offensively now with five assists in the last four games, and six assists in the last seven games.

Since the trade, the Pens have been electric with one of the league’s best records at 14-3-1. It’s coincidental but Anaheim is one of the worst teams in the league in 5-7-3. At this point both teams probably would make the same deal again if they could, but it will obviously be of keen interest to many to continue and watch how Sprong progresses and to see what kind of role Pettersson can carve out for himself over the years.