Capitals

Where will Daniel Sprong fit into the lineup?

Capitals

When hockey finally returns in 2021, the Capitals will have their sights set on the Stanley Cup. Every team enters each season with questions that need to be answered. We are looking at the biggest questions facing the Capitals in 2021.

Today's question: Where will Daniel Sprong fit into the lineup?

The first question we have to ask is will he even be in the lineup? Sprong, 23, has 97 games of NHL experience and played only eight games last season with the Anaheim Ducks. The Caps are a veteran-heavy team with an eye on the Stanley Cup and prospects struggle to get into the lineup in Washington as a result. Having said that, there are a few reasons why Sprong looks like a lock for the roster.

The team was very impressed with Sprong in the return to play training camp held over the summer. Plus, in those 97 games, Sprong has scored 19 goals and 11 assists in limited minutes, his cap hit is only $725,000 which is important considering how tight the cap situation is and the Caps' offensive depth is pretty thin.

If Sprong does make the roster, the next question is where he will play? Would he slide into the open spot on the third line, play on the fourth or be the 13th forward?

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The Caps are a cap team that had several weaknesses that needed to be addressed in the offseason. Genearl manager Brian MacLellan accomplished what he could, but there was ultimately not enough cap space left to bring in a goal-scorer for the third line to replace Ilya Kovalchuk and, before him, Brett Connolly.

 

Over his NHL career, Sprong has averaged only 11:42 of ice-time per game. To score 30 points with that little ice time is impressive and Sprong looks like a perfect fit to play on the third line where scoring with limited minutes is important. While he appears to be a fit, you would be hard-pressed to find another obvious candidate for the third line within the organization.

Richard Panik was originally signed for that role, but never seemed to click until he was pushed to the fourth line. Sprong has more upside than any of the other depth forwards on the team and is clearly the most NHL-ready among the team's offensive prospects.

RELATED: Where will the Caps get their depth scoring from?

"He has an NHL shot," said Zack Fisch, the voice of the Hershey Bears on an episode of the Capitals Talk Podcast. "That's the most exciting thing for me about him that is going to translate right away."

Fisch added, "While I've seen a lot of people pencil him in, he seems to be that best option, at least internally, for this club."

Having a new head coach in Peter Laviolette could change things. Perhaps Panik or a prospect will thrive under the new system and catch Laviolette's eye. Perhaps Laviolette will find something in Sprong's game he does not like. Perhaps the team will make a trade before the season and bring in a more established goal-scorer which would then push Sprong to the fourth line, or lower.

But based on what Sprong has been able to show already at the NHL level, based on the team's desperate need for a cheap contract on the roster and based on the lack of other viable options, it certainly looks like you can pencil Sprong onto the third-line for the 2021 season.