Pens prospect Daniel Sprong has a tendency to make scoring goals appear easy. Almost second nature.
Sprong tallied 117 goals in 199 career games in parts of four seasons with Charlottetown of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In his final campaign in 2016-17, the Amsterdam native notched 32 goals in 31 games, which included four hat tricks, one four-goal game and 10 multi-goal games.
Sprong's biggest game was on March 8 against Moncton when he posted a career-high four goals and seven points.
"It was a good year personal-wise," Sprong said.
Sprong's offensive talent is obvious. But for him to make the leap into the NHL next season, he knows that it's the other side of his game that needs to be strong.
"I knew in the Q that I always had the numbers since I started at 16," said Sprong at the team's annual development camp. "But I knew this year would be my last year to develop my game one last time before making the step, hopefully to the NHL next year full time.
"I worked a lot away from the puck. I worked on a different side of my game."
The numbers prove Sprong's case. In his first three seasons with Charlottetown Sprong recorded a minus in each season for a combined minus-50. But last season, his final in the QMJHL, he was an astonishing plus-29.
Sprong actually began working on his defensive game off the ice. After suffering a shoulder injury last spring that required surgery, the 20-year-old watched the Pens' Stanley Cup championship run while making mental notes.
"I remember when I was rehabbing my shoulder and watching a lot of games at home just seeing what guys were doing in the D-zone and how I could put that into my game," Sprong said. "I know what I have to do on that side of the puck and my skill will take over on the other side."
Sprong's goal for next season is to play in Pittsburgh. He's used the past year to prepare himself to make that jump both physically and with his play.
"For me, it's just having a good summer off the ice and on ice working on my skill, getting stronger in the gym," he said. "Coming into camp and playing my way, get the chances and make sure I take full advantage of it."
Sprong had a brief stint in the National Hockey League in 2015-16 after the team selected him in the second round (46th overall) of that season's draft. He became the third-youngest player to skate for the Pens at 18 years, six months, 21 days when he made his NHL debut on Oct. 8 at Dallas. Sprong played 18 games that year and scored two goals before being returned to Charlottetown.
"It was a dream come true to make the team at 18 years old," he said. "Playing 18 games and scoring twice is something you'll never forget. I had a taste of it and got sent down."
And now Sprong wants to make a permanent place in the NHL.
"I think I learned a lot and matured a lot during that time," Sprong said. "Coming here at development camp, having a good week here, going back to Montreal and getting ready for rookie tournament and trying to earn a spot."