Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Why Not Sprong? Sullivan Explains

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Why Not Sprong? Sullivan Explains

Article excerpt

DALLAS - While Teddy Blueger was called up Thursday, Zach Aston-Reese played his third game at the NHL level Friday night against Dallas and Dominik Simon his 21st, there's another forward in Wilkes-Barre who has more experience than those three combined.

Daniel Sprong.

A second-round pick in 2015, Sprong has 26 games of NHL experience, but he remains in the minors for a relatively simple reason: Blueger and Aston-Reese, the past two call-ups, were playing better.

The Penguins also want Sprong to work on what coach Mike Sullivan described as "subtleties to the game."

Sullivan gave a thoughtful and thorough response to the question of why Sprong's not with the big club Friday morning in Dallas.

First, the idea of who's playing the best.

"We believe in making sure that the players who are performing at their best are provided the opportunities," Sullivan said. "Everybody needs to know that how they play in Wilkes-Barre matters.

"We always have people down there. Billy Guerin is down there an awful lot. Scott Young, our development coach, is there. [Coach Clark Donatelli's] staff is working with these guys on a daily basis.

"Quite honestly, we defer to these guys. When we need to call a player up, the question I always ask is, 'Which guy's going to give us the best chance to win?'"

Next, Sprong's game.

Consistency is one thing. Sprong tailed off in his most recent chance, a perfectly normal occurrence for someone of his age (20) and experience level. Veterans earn the right to have an off night here and there, but they also don't do it much because they've gained that experience.

But there are parts of Sprong's game that need to improve.

"I think his shooting ability is obvious," Sullivan said. "That's what all of you guys [in the media] point to. We see that as well. We have very high expectations of Daniel. There's more to the game than just that. …

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