With the final pre-season game taking place tonight, it seems everyone is worried about the same thing, the defense. A position once herald as one of the deepest in the NHL has somehow become the most concerning. But could all this worry be for not?
And what about Daniel Sprong, the Penguins 2015 second round pick is possibly opening up more options for the coaching & management staff. Will he just get a 9 game “try-out” in the NHL or might he find a way to be a main stay in a Penguins jersey?
The Penguins found themselves in quite the predicament losing Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff this off-season. The team went from boasting a top four of Letang, Maatta, Martin and Ehrhoff to Letang, Maatta, Cole and ???
Rutherford was hoping that the 41-year-old Gonchar could make an impact and elevate those around him, unfortunately though, he has been a big liability this pre-season on the blue-line.
So what does the 18-year-old Daniel Sprong have to do with the fate of the Penguins defense?
Yesterday Ryan Wilson, a Penguins blogger on Hockeybuzz.com, talked about a potential trade option that could see David Perron traded to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. And while that all sounds like a great idea, would the Penguins be so willing to deplete their forward depth this early in the season?
We know when the team is healthy that the wingers will be Kessel, Hornqvist, Plotnikov, Perron, Fehr, Kunitz, Dupuis and Bennett. And on paper everything looks impressive, however once you get past those eight we begin to realize that the likes of Farnham, Wilson and Sheary are the only other viable options on the depth chart.
Are you comfortable with playing two of those three if say Dupuis goes out with blood clot issues or Kunitz struggles and shows the inability to stay consistent?
This brings me to Daniel Sprong, the underrated player who was selected by the Penguins in the 2nd round of the 2015 entry draft.
So far in the pre-season Sprong has been the most impressive player on the ice for the Penguins. His speed and tenacity has fit great alongside the veterans of the team and his 2 goals and three points have shown his knack for contributing.
However Sprong is only 18, he is still early in his career and playing him on the fourth line for an extended period of time could potentially hinder his development. This is why the plan at this point would be to send him back to his QMJHL team in Charlottetown after a 9 game stint on the big club if not at the end of training camp this week.
But lets say he simply awes the coaching staff and management, lets say he proves to be NHL ready. If this were to happen and only then should the Penguins consider moving someone like David Perron for a top four defender. The idea is to have four scoring lines, moving Perron now would make that a little more difficult, especially with Fehr out another month or so and Sprong playing in Juniors.
It is probably safe to assume that Sprong will get at least 9 games in the NHL which in turn will help rectify a multitude of things. For instance It will allow Fehr to recover from his surgery, it will allow the Penguins to attempt to smooth out the defense internally instead of making a drastic change haphazardly and it will show everyone if Sprong is ready for the NHL.
So keeping Perron around, who is arguably the best Left Winger the team has at this point, is a must, at least for the first 9 games of the season.
Sprong may be a long shot to stick with the team, but it is one option the Penguins have to consider especially if they are seriously looking outside the club for defensive help.
– Robert Slavinsky