Penguins send second-rounder Daniel Sprong back to QMJHL

Rookie Daniel Sprong has had a tough time making his way into the Penguins lineup, and Pittsburgh announced Saturday that he has been sent back to the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders. Sprong, 18, had two goals in 18 games, but was a healthy scratch 12 times.

Even though rookie Daniel Sprong made the Pittsburgh roster out of training camp, the 18-year-old couldn’t find a permanent spot in the lineup under former Penguins bench boss Mike Johnston. When Mike Sullivan came in as coach, Sprong was back in the lineup, but his minutes were limited.

Now, after 18 games, two goals and an average of less than nine minutes of ice time per outing, Sprong is heading back to major junior. The Penguins announced Saturday that Sprong has been returned to the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders with whom he has played his past two junior seasons. With Sprong getting such limited ice time, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said it’s important for the rookie to go somewhere where he’s going to get the chance to get to play on a consistent basis.

“Spending this time in the NHL has been a good development experience for Daniel,” Rutherford said in statement. “But it’s important for him to have more playing time.”

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Sprong had a few games where he played a decent amount of minutes — he played 10-plus minutes three times — but he also skated as few as five minutes in December. Sprong’s two tallies during his stay in the NHL came in the first month of the season, and he hasn’t gotten on the score sheet since. He was made a healthy scratch 12 times.

The Penguins used their first pick of the 2015 draft to select Sprong in the second round, 46th overall. He was one of just five players from the 2015 draft to make an NHL club out of training camp. During the pre-season, Sprong notched two goals and three points.

In his past two QMJHL seasons, Sprong has registered 69 goals and 156 points in 135 games. Charlottetown is last in the Maritimes Division with a 13-19-3 record and 29 points in 35 games.