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Daniel Sprong Career Season a Pleasant Surprise in Seattle

Typically, when fans think of any single NHL franchise, one or two key players come to mind immediately. The Pittsburgh Penguins are synonymous with Sidney Crosby, just as the Washington Capitals are with Alex Ovechkin, or Nathan MacKinnon with the Colorado Avalanche, or of course Connor McDavid with the Edmonton Oilers. Even weaker teams possess some “face of the franchise”-type rising star; Trevor Zegras represents that for the Anaheim Ducks, or Clayton Keller for the Arizona Coyotes. The Seattle Kraken simply don’t have that; they remain a kind of “rag tag” group of players, devoid of an NHL leading scorer or bonafide elite goaltender. Yet, they managed to punch their ticket to the postseason for the first time in franchise history this year. Where the Kraken lack in superstardom, they more than makeup for it in depth skill and consistency. And, the best example of this is the career season from Daniel Sprong.

Daniel Sprong’s Career Season Embodies the Kraken Identity

See, Seattle has no single player producing at a point-per-game rate. Instead, they lead the league in players with double-digit goal totals (13). Five of those players broke the 20-goal plateau. Every single rostered player that suited up for at least 15 games managed to contribute double-digit point totals, too. In fact, 17 Kraken skaters notched at least 25 points. That includes four of the team’s defencemen.

A lot of the players making up all these fun production statistics took major strides forward this year. For instance, McCann reached 30 goals for the first time in his career this year. He still hopes to make it 40, with one goal to go and a few games still to be played. Matthew Beniers looks like a lock to win the Calder Award as the NHL’s top rookie. Vince Dunn set new career highs in goals, assists and points, by an enormous margin to boot. Even older players, like Jordan Eberle, had resurgences; Eberle broke the 60-point plateau for the first time in eight years, dating back to his 25-year-old season.

All these success stories and many more swirl through the Kraken lineup. Like many of other Kraken players posting career seasons, Sprong recorded many new highs too. And his really stands out among the rest, simply because of the sheer magnitude.

Sprong’s Roots

Originally drafted in the second round of the 2015 entry draft by the Penguins, Sprong suited up for 18 games as a rookie. He potted just two goals and returned to the QMJHL to finish out his junior career. It wasn’t until 2017-18 that he’d turn pro permanently. Even then, he only played eight games for the Penguins, but torched the AHL with 32 goals and 65 points in 65 contests.

In 2018-19, Sprong (now 21) finally became a regular at the NHL level, cracking the Pens’ opening night roster. After 16 games, though, Pittsburgh dealt him to the Ducks for Marcus Pettersson. In Anaheim, Sprong finally showed off his finishing ability and notched 14 goals in 47 contests. However, he only added five assists in that span, and bounced between the AHL and NHL the following season.

Journey to Seattle

Following the end of his contract in 2020, Sprong signed a two-year deal with the Washington Capitals worth $725,000 annually. That cap hit actually came in lower than the $750,000 annual value of his previous contract. Clearly, he needed to prove his ability at the NHL level still, and Washington took a flier on him.

With the Capitals, Sprong recorded 20 points in 42 games over 2020-21. This was Sprong’s best career season with a single team, and would retain that status until 2022-23. Though 42 games played usually means a player only dressed for about half the games, this was a Covid-shortened year. That said, he still missed 14 regular season games, and only played in three of their five-game first-round series in the playoffs too.

Sprong then entered the second and final year of his contract last season. He produced at a slightly lower rate, accumulating 14 points in 47 games, when the Caps traded him to the Kraken. The move came just before the 2022 trade deadline, as Seattle sent Marcus Johansson to Washington for Sprong and two draft picks.

Arrival in Seattle

After the trade deadline, the Kraken were a team fully focused on the future. Selling Johansson was one of many moves that saw veteran players on expiring contracts shipped out of town in exchange for draft picks. In fact, they executed six deals in March 2022, and only landed Sprong and Victor Rask in return. All other assets coming Seattle’s way, which totaled to 10, were draft picks.

Rask posted eight points in the team’s final 18 contests, while Sprong only posted six (all goals). However, the Kraken invited him back to training camp ahead of the 2022-23 season. Then, ten days before opening night, he inked a one-year deal worth $750,000.

2022-23 – Sprong’s Career Season

Seattle scratched Sprong for the first three games of the season before making his debut. Then, he got scratched another three games immediately afterwards. But since then, Sprong suited up for 62 out of the team’s next 73 games. With 63 games played this season, he tied his previous career high, set twice (2018-19 and 2021-22). This time, though, he played all 63 for the same franchise.

Also notably different this year was his contributions. Sprong logged fantastic advanced metrics, with a 10.2% relative Corsi-for percentage. The advanced stats translated into standard stats too. Sprong hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time ever, and also recorded more assists than goals for the first time in any season of his career. With 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists) and counting, Sprong obviously had a career season in 2022-23. He sure found himself a good home in Seattle.

Sprong Earning Opportunities

Perhaps most impressive is his effectiveness. Sprong ranks sixth on the team in points, but logs fourth line minutes every night. His average time-on-ice sits at only 11:19 per game, less than every other regular forward except Ryan Donato (11:14) and Morgan Geekie (10:25). Donato and Geekie both have 27 points apiece. Somehow, Sprong racked up nearly as many points as the two of them combined while playing only five seconds more than Donato on average each night.

Regardless, Sprong showed everyone he has a fantastic NHL shot this season. In fact, he earned himself opportunities on the team’s power play unit. He ranks tied for first on the team with six power play goals, and tied for fourth on the team with 14 power play points. Sprong’s career season opened the door this summer for a hefty raise on his next contract. It should be the last time he has to settle for a six-figure salary, as he deserves something well north of $1 million.

As a restricted free agent, the Kraken retain control over the player too. This shouldn’t be bad news for Sprong, as the team certainly wants to keep the potent forward. At just 26 years old, Sprong might still have another gear or two before he hits his ceiling. Knowing how well he fits in with the rest of his rag-tag Kraken teammates, Sprong deserves a chance to make Seattle his long term home.

Main Photo: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports


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