Washington Capitals Player Preview: The Year of Daniel Sprong

Daniel Sprong, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Sprong, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2021-2022 season will be the year of Daniel Sprong. According to Chinese zodiac signs, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Despite that, Lars Eller needs to step aside and make way for the young Dutch sniper. Sprong will likely play alongside the talented Eller who will make him better but it is Sprong that opposing teams are going to have to worry most about. A season ago, Sprong was a pleasant surprise for the Washington Capitals, shooting a career-high 17.6 percent and scoring 13 goals in very limited time. This season, Sprong is going to take the next leap forward in his development and eclipse the 20-goal plateau.

Sprong deserves significantly more time on the team’s power play unit. Earlier this off-season we talked about how Sprong could push Evgeny Kuznetsov off of the team’s top unit, but with Nicklas Backstrom’s health in question, Sprong has yet another avenue to get that opportunity. If given the chance, Sprong will impress. Last season, his first in Washington, he played in 41 games and averaged just 11:40 of ice-time. In those 41 games, Sprong scored 13 goals and added 7 assists. The Capitals took notice, choosing to protect Daniel Sprong from the Seattle Kraken in this season’s Expansion Draft.

It will certainly be tough to crack the top six in Washington. The core group of players are immensely talented and their spots are seemingly locked in-place. With that said, an 82-game season is long and it’s no secret that Peter Laviolette’s bunch is old. Sprong has the ability to slot in anywhere on the top-six if players are injured or given a game or two to rest in preparation for a playoff run. We saw it last year when Sprong filled in on the top-line for Alex Ovechkin when the star Russian was sidelined due to a breach of COVID-19 protocols.

Sprong played with a certain swagger and has an incredibly high hockey IQ. One play best sums up Daniel Sprong. A season ago, Sprong found himself on a 2-on-1 break with Alex Ovechkin, the greatest goal-scorer of all-time. What does the 24-year-old do? He uses Ovechkin as a decoy and rips a wicked shot by Scott Wedgewood who, much like the rest of the world, was expecting Sprong to pass the puck to his captain.

"“Two-on-one, the D played ‘O’ [Ovechkin] and their goalie decided to take away his side too, so I just had to hit the middle of the net and that’s what happened,” Sprong explained. “When you go down on a 2-on-1 with the greatest goal-scorer, I think everyone thinks that you’re going to give it to him, and even the goalie thought so.”"

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You can’t teach confidence and you can’t teach intelligence. Daniel Sprong has both in spades. Sprong’s a talented sharpshooter and the Capitals are fortunate to have him on the roster.