Red Wings hope to spring a great value signing with Daniel Sprong

Detroit News

Detroit — General manager Steve Yzerman was busy on July 1 signing unrestricted free agents to bolster the Red Wings.

That day, Yzerman signed goaltender James Reimer, defensemen Justin Holl and Shayne Gostisbehere, and forwards Daniel Sprong and J.T. Compher in a dizzying flurry of activity.

Who could be an underrated find in that group?

An intriguing player could turn out to be Sprong, 26, who is arguably lesser-known among Wings fans.

Playing in Seattle last season — and before then a depth player in Pittsburgh, Anaheim and Washington — Sprong hadn’t made a huge impact in the NHL.

But when you take a dive into his statistics last season, few players had the relative success Sprong had.

While averaging only 11 minutes, 25 seconds per game and playing primarily on the Kraken’s fourth line, Sprong had career highs of 21 goals, 25 assists and 46 points. He did that while playing in 66 of the 82 games, being a healthy scratch on many nights. Sprong was only one of nine players who scored at least 20 goals but played less than 16 minutes per game.

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Armed with one of the best shots in the NHL, Sprong had six goals and 14 points on the power play, where his hard shot can create havoc and is a valuable option.

In all, Sprong could prove to be an interesting addition for coach Derek Lalonde to utilize.

“We think he can contribute goal scoring, and potentially at a good age that he can continue to grow,” Yzerman said. “I like his scoring ability, size and offensive ability. He fits a real need for us.”

Sprong, who signed a one-year contract worth $2 million, was excited about landing with the Wings.

“It will be a good fit for both sides,” Sprong said after signing with the Wings. “Something Detroit was lacking last year was scoring. They’re an up-and-coming team. I thought it would be a good fit to be there and help with the scoring and grow with the guys there and be part of the organization.”

Getting an opportunity to play in Seattle, even if it was somewhat limited, was something Sprong valued. He had never before gotten the chance on the power play. That, along with an added emphasis on defense and using his physicality, helped expand his game.

“I adjusted some parts of my game,” Sprong said. “I became a bit better defensively, played with more physicality and maybe better with my all-around game. Offensively, the big thing was getting power-play time, being put in the opportunity to perform on the power play where I could use my strengths, use my shot.

“I’m a shooter, so that’s something I can really help the power play with.”

The experience in Seattle, an expansion team that made the playoffs last season in only its second season of existence, was key for Sprong. With the Wings in possibly the endpoint of their rebuild, Sprong believes he can bring the needed experience necessary to make a team a playoff team.

“If you look at our team last year in Seattle, we had four lines that can play,” Sprong said. “We had a speed team. The way I played last year on the power play and scoring five-on-five, that’s something I excelled at, and the defensive side as well. I am excited to bring that to Detroit.

“The biggest thing with this group in Detroit, you got to believe it in the locker room first and then cancel the outside noise. If you look at the team on paper with the guys that came in and the players they have there, we can be a playoff team for sure.

“Detroit was only 12 points out of the playoffs, so you’re talking about maybe a six- or seven-game swing, and you’re not far out of a playoff spot.”

Sprong believes the way Seattle won last season can be duplicated with the Wings, who may have similar depth.

“We stuck together all year and it didn’t matter who scored,” said Sprong, who was born in the Netherlands and whose father was a pro hockey player before they moved to Montreal. “It was one of those teams that we believed in each other. We were a real tight group. We just had real good depth and played with a lot of speed, that’s for sure.”

Sprong is walking into a locker room that he will be comfortable with. Sprong played with Olli Maatta and David Perron in Pittsburgh, is friends with Jake Walman and Robby Fabbri through junior hockey, and lives near Joe Veleno in Montreal.

Further, one of Sprong’s best friends in hockey is former Wings forward Anthony Mantha, who was extremely complimentary of the city and organization.

“He (Mantha) played here a long time and said nothing but good things about the city,” Sprong said. “It’s a lot easier and you feel more comfortable when you hear good things about the city and organization. I’m just excited to be here.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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