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Daniel Sprong: Could He Be The Best Ice Hockey Player From The Netherlands?

While the nation is laser focused on the goings on of the Dutch side at Euro 2000, across the Atlantic Ocean, the nation of Canada is equally mesmerized by the pursuit of the Stanley Cup. The oldest team trophy in North American sport, the Stanley Cup goes annually to the champions of the National Hockey League.

However, the Stanley Cup has never gone to a Dutch player. Granted, there hasn’t exactly been ample opportunity for that to happen. There was a chance again this year, although the opportunity fizzled quickly. The Washington Capitals, the team of Daniel Sprong of Amsterdam, were not among the favorites at the best online betting sites in the Stanley Cup odds.

The Capitals were eliminated in the opening round of Stanley Cup competition by the Boston Bruins in five games, winning just once. Sprong, 24, a right-winger, played in three of five games, collecting one assist. It was his first Stanley Cup playing experience in his fifth NHL season.

Daniel Sprong: Could He Be The Best Ice Hockey Player From The Netherlands?

“Daniel Sprong” by Geoff Burke/USA SPORTS  is licensed under CC BY 3.0

A Close Call With The Penguins

Technically, Sprong has played for a Stanley Cup championship club. His first NHL season was in 2015-16 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the Cup that spring. Sprong suited up for 18 games during regular-season play, but scored just twice, a fatal condition for someone whose main skill is supposed to be as a finisher. In the junior ranks with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Charlottetown Islanders, Sprong scored 30 goals in three of his four seasons, leading Pittsburgh to select him in the second round of the 2015 NHL entry draft.

Not finding the back of the net quickly caused Sprong to fall out of favor with Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan. “I just think given the circumstances and how the situation has evolved, when you look at the team that we have and the opportunities that have been presented to players, they’ve earned their spots,” Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at the time.

Since Sprong didn’t play in the Cup playoffs, he was not included among the players who were credited with the Cup win via the hockey tradition of having their names inscribed on the silver bowl of the Stanley Cup.

The Penguins traded Sprong to the Anaheim Ducks in 2018. He enjoyed his best NHL season with them in 2018-19, scoring 14 goals in 63 games. Nonetheless, the Ducks moved him to Washington in 2020. This season, Sprong netted 13 goals in 42 games.

Moving To His Dream

As a youngster, Sprong’s Dutch hockey club traveled to Canada to play in a tournament. “I think I was six or seven years old when I played a hockey game for my Dutch team in Canada,” Sprong told Sportsnet. “Me and my family just fell in love with [the country].” They moved to Canada in 2005.

If you’re a Canadian youngster dreaming of a career as a footballer, the chances increase dramatically if they can hook up with a European side’s youth academy. For a budding hockey player, there’s no better place to be raised than Canada. After Sprong’s family relocated to Canada, his hockey skills improved dramatically.

Daniel Sprong: Could He Be The Best Ice Hockey Player From The Netherlands?

“Daniel Sprong” by Scott Taetsch/USATODAY SPORTS  is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Those Who Came Before Sprong

The stories of the other NHL players from the Netherlands follow a similar trajectory to Sprong’s tale. Although all were born in the Netherlands, each benefitted from a family decision to move to Canada.

Ed Kea of Weesp owns the NHL mark for most games played by a Dutch-born player. A defensive-minded defender, Kea suited up for 583 games for the Atlanta Flames and St. Louis Blues from 1973-83. He also appeared in 32 Stanley Cup games, but never advanced beyond the second round of the tournament.

Eddy Beers of Zweeg is the most productive Dutch-born NHL player. He was the leading scorer in college hockey with the University of Denver in 1981-82, collecting 50 goals and 34 assists in 42 games.

Like Kea, Beers, a left-winger, played for the Flames after the franchise was relocated to Calgary and the Blues. He scored a career-best 36 goals and 39 assists with the Flames during the 1983-84 season. Traded to the Blues in 1986, Beers reached the semifinals of the Stanley Cup that year. Oddly enough, St. Louis lost in that round to his old team the Flames.

There’s a debate over which would be considered the best Dutch NHLer. Kea enjoyed a longer career but Beers put up significantly better offensive numbers in just 250 games.

Could Sprong supplant them as the best Dutch NHL player? He certainly has the potential but he’s yet to indicate he has the capability to live up to those expectations.

 

 

 

 

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