When it comes to the NHL draft, taking a player in the second round and hoping it feels an immediate organizational need is a little bit of a stretch and sometimes asking too much of the young player.
But when the Pittsburgh Penguins used their first pick of the 2015 draft, 46th overall, on right winger Daniel Sprong, they both filled an immediate – and future – need that this organization so needs.
All though nothing has come to fruition, it has been widely noted that General Manager Jim Rutherford has been looking to add help on the top two lines for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They haven’t gotten that immediate help, but the future of the top six was bolstered with the selection of Charlottetown winger Daniel Sprong.
Daniel Sprong Well Worth The Risk For Penguins
One of the most dynamic players in this year’s draft, unfavorable reviews at the combine, as well as questions about his willingness to play defense had a few general managers turn completely away from taking the young, Amsterdam born winger.
“We had serious interest in him and he looked like he was in our range,” said an Eastern Conference scout in a Sportsnet article. “but there were a couple of gotcha questions and bad answers. Really didn’t like that. I think it’s fair to say that we’re off him.”
Sometimes its easy to forget that these are still kids, and that not everyone matures at the same rate. Just because he is one way at a certain age, doesn’t necessarily he won’t grow and mature.
Having Crosby, Malkin and the other core players in the locker room will certainly help with that once he finds his way to the big league club.
Finding his way, despite questions about his defensive play, shouldn’t be a problem for Sprong. One of the most talented players in the draft, his offense alone should carry him to the next level and should make him a staple on the Penguins top six.
“Has the skill to go high because he is a dangerous goal-scorer,” a scout said in an article on Eyes on The Prize. “Pair him with a decent playmaker and he could potentially score 30-35 goals in the NHL.”
Not bad, right? Anyone would take a 30-35 goal scorer on their team, especially one that came out of the second round. But the scout continued and that’s where another red flag came up. “But he is very one-dimensional, and lacks the size and drive to play defensively to be anything other than a goal scorer.”
If the worst possible outcome is that he will be an 30 goal scorer that you have to protect with favorable zone starts, and you grab that in the second round – you take it and run with it and laugh on your way out.
Last season, only 15 players found the back of the net at least 30 times, of which seven scored right within the 30-35 mark.
Sean Monahan, Radim Vrbata, Nick Foligno, Jiri Hudler, Corey Perry, Zach Parise, Jamie Benn.
You might have heard of some of these names, especially that last one, Benn, who won the Art Ross Trophy for the most points scored this season.
Every draft pick comes with some sort of risk, of them all you would almost rather have ‘explosive offensively, lazy defensively’ as your top ‘fault’. Sprong fills a need for the Penguins, both short-term as an high end offensive prospect on the wing as well as long-term as an eventual top-six winger.
Pittsburgh hasn’t had a home-grown player NOT named Crosby and Malkin come near 30 goals since Jordan Staal scored 29 his rookie season in 2006. Already one of the more natural goal scorers in the draft, add in the prospect of playing with Crosby and Malkin, and you have a player well worth the risk that comes with it.