Based on his regular season, Ryan Strome would never fall to the draft’s 12th overall pick. His postseason may have opened that door.
Strome, a center with Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League, finished third in league scoring with 106 points (33g, 73a) in 65 games – a total that tied him with potential first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the lead among all Canadian Hockey League players in their initial year of draft eligibility. As his numbers would suggest, he’s more of a playmaker than a scorer, but he’s still capable of some spectacular goals (see video above).
Scouts love Strome’s vision and puck skills – attributes that have him well inside the top 10 in most rankings. While he needs to work on building up his 6-foot, 183-pound frame, his skating strength and his defense, most 17-year-olds do.
If he is available to Carolina, it will be due to a disappointing playoff performance.
“Having the type of production he had in the regular season opens your eyes, but the fall off in the playoffs is probably the only reason a player like Strome would get to 12,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ vice president and assistant general manager. “The top 15 is a very strong group and leaves the possibility for a lot of different things to happen on draft day.”
It should be noted that Strome’s overall postseason numbers aren’t bad. He scored 12 points in 14 games (6g, 6a), which, while behind his torrid regular-season pace, doesn’t suggest a total disaster. However, scouts are somewhat concerned that, in the OHL’s Eastern Conference Finals, he wasn’t able to impose his will in the same way that he did during the regular season.
“In the final series they were eliminated by Missasauga, which is probably the best defensive team in the CHL,” said Canes chief amateur scout Tony MacDonald of a five-game series that saw Strome record no goals and 2 assists. “They took a lot of his game away.”
While it may seem silly to sour on a player due to a mediocre final five games after an outstanding first 74, the postseason can be a real indicator of a player’s mental makeup. It certainly was for Jeff Skinner, whose 20-goals-in-20 games performance with Kitchener in his draft year said things about his character and performance under pressure that were later confirmed during the Hurricanes’ late-season push for the playoffs.
Then again, it could just be a way for a team to steal a player that otherwise would have no business falling into its lap.
“He’s a very smart player with great hands and great puck skills, and he’s obviously a highly-talented offensive player,” said Karmanos. “If Ryan Strome had the playoffs that Jeff Skinner had last year, there would be no doubt that he would be gone.”
“He’s more of a pass-first, playmaking guy who makes things happen,” said MacDonald. “Over the course of the season he found a way to get it done.”
Wherever Stome does get drafted, it will be much higher than anticipated at the start of the season. Although he’s always showed promise (he was a high pick in the OHL draft), his breakout campaign was a 79-point improvement from the 27 points he posted in 61 games as a young player on a stacked Barrie team in 2009-10. That won him the OHL’s Most Improved Player award this past season.