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Coach Derek Lalonde’s Challenge: What to Do With Daniel Sprong

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Daniel Sprong, Red Wings

Daniel Sprong probably did more with less playing time than any other NHL player this past season.

Sprong netted 21 goals while averaging 11:25 minutes per game for the Seattle Kraken. The league boasted 129 players who totaled 20 or more goals. Sprong was the only one of them not to play at least 14:21 per game.  Ninty-three percent (120 of 129) of those players who scored 20 or more played 16 or minutes.

The Netherlands native enjoyed his breakthrough season while playing on the fourth line, often playing with Ryan Donato and Morgan Geekie. Sometimes Brandon Tanev rotated into that group. Sprong played 66 games last season, sitting out more than his fair share of games as a healthy scratch. Seattle coach Dave Hakstol presumably wanted better defensive play out of Sprong.

“I think I adjusted some parts of my game,” Sprong said about having his best NHL season. “I think 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 and use my shot. I’m a shooter, so that’s something I think I can really help the power play with.”

The big question for Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde is deciding how to use Sprong. Even though he played fourth line last season, he has never been known as a strong two-way player.

Sprong with Compher or Veleno?

Could Lalonde give him a shot on the second line with J.T. Compher as his center, or maybe on a middle six line with Michael Rasmussen and Andrew Copp? Or does Detroit use him like Seattle did — perhaps going with a scoring fourth line with Jonatan Berggren and Joe Veleno?

This decision could be impacted on how Lalonde decides to use big and versatile forward Klim Kostin.

It probably makes the most sense to give him a shot initially on a scoring line, because Sprong did score 15 even-strength goals. That’s the same number that Dylan Larkin scored in 2022-23. The Red Wings signed Sprong for his scoring touch.

All we know for sure is that Sprong will be getting power power play time. He had six power-play goals last season.

“We had a good team in Seattle, too,” Sprong said. “You could play any guy with anybody and we clicked easy. But I think it was the opportunity to play power play, getting the minutes, making the most of it. I’m looking forward to a bigger role, show Detroit what I can do that this year.”