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‘There’s no coming back’ for Sprong

Daniel Sprong goes back to the bench after scoring a goal in Game 2 against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on April 22.
Daniel Sprong goes back to the bench after scoring a goal in Game 2 against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on April 22.

Daniel Sprong watched for three seasons as veterans played their final junior hockey game, but nothing prepared him for experiencing it himself.

“You see them emotional and didn't really think how rough it is, but when the buzzer sounded it really hit me and now I know what those guys felt,” the sniper said Saturday night outside the Charlottetown Islanders dressing room.
The Islanders lost 5-2 to the Blainvile-Boisbriand Armada in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinal.
“I’m really proud of this team. I think we’ve done a great job, (but) it’s not the way we wanted (it) to end,” Sprong said. “It’s rough. It’s over.”
Sprong, considered by many to be one of, if not, the most talented players in franchise history, sat and watched the deciding game while serving his one-game suspension for a hit to the head and a gesture at the end of Game 4 in Boisbriand, Que.
“You want to be on the ice. I want to be (a) difference maker,” Sprong said, but “The boys did an unbelievable job . . . tonight (Saturday).”
Sprong was born in Amsterdam and moved to the Montreal area with his family after spending a summer there, playing hockey when he was seven years old.
After lighting up the midget espoir league in Quebec (48 goals, 104 points in 30 games), the Lac Saint-Louis Tigres’ product became the first pick in the rebranded Islanders history in 2013.
Central Scouting rated him as the sixth-best prospect coming into the draft, but he slid to 13.
He busted onto the scene in Charlottetown, scoring 30 goals and recording 68 points in his 67-game rookie season as a 16-year-old. He had 39 goals and 88 points in Year 2, and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the 2015 draft.
Sprong signed his first contract while on a pre-season trip with the Isles to the Magdalen Islands. He attended the Pens camp, and to the surprise of local fans, made the team as an 18-year-old to start the season. He scored two goals in 18 games before coming back to junior and helping the Isles reach the second round.
The Shawinigan Cataractes eliminated the Islanders and Sprong was off to the AHL and then to Pittsburgh as the Penguins as went on their Stanley Cup run. It was during his time in the Steel City that Sprong got pushed into the boards in what he called a “fluke accident” that resulted in off-season shoulder surgery and him missing the first half of the 2016-17 season.
The Pens determined it was best for Sprong to begin play in 2017 in Charlottetown, which boosted an Islanders club that already was amongst the top teams in the circuit.
The Islanders loaded up to try and make a deep playoff run.
Sprong said he thought last year was going to be his final junior season, now he knows 2016-17 was.
“There’s no coming back anymore. It’s time to go pro now and hopefully I can bring the same game that I brought here to the next level,” he said.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were eliminated in the first round of the AHL playoffs Sunday by the Providence Bruins. Sprong will leave for Pittsburgh later this week.
Sprong had two assists in his first game as an Islander on Sept. 13, 2013, and scored his first goal in Saint John, N.B., on Sept. 22. He said the first goal and last year’s Game 5 against Shawinigan are two memories that standout as are the memories created with teammates, particularly Kameron Kielly and Filip Chlapik.
“A lot of great memories, but I think this year was the best year on the Island,” he said.
“The teammates, throughout my whole career here, they've been great. . . It’s hard to swallow, but I think (as) a week or a couple of weeks go by, I’ll look back at it and recognize the things I’ve done on the Island.”

Need to know
Daniel Sprong
Who – A 20-year-old hockey player who was born in Amsterdam, but has lived in Montreal since he was seven.
NHL – Sprong was drafted by the Penguins in the second round (46 overall) of the 2015 draft. He had two goals in 18 NHL games in 2015-16.
QMJHL statistics
Regular season
Season    GP    G    A    Pts

2016-17    31    32    27    59
2015-16    33    16    30    46
2014-15    68    39    49    88
2013-14    67    30    38    68
Season  GP    G     A    Pts

2017       12      9     11     20
2016      12      4      11     15
2015      10      7      4      11
2014       4      4      1       5

By the numbers
7    Career high for points in a game
4    Career high for goals in a game
4    Career high for assists in a game
11    Longest point streak in caree

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