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Already a good fit

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
When Islanders General Manager Garth Snow took the podium in St. Paul, MN on Friday night, a crowd back home on Long Island anxiously watched the video board inside Nassau Coliseum. Waiting to hear Snow complete 10 short words, fans were eager to get their first glimpse of the Islanders newest prospect.

Instead, Snow approached the stand, thanked the fans watching on Long Island and then handed over his spot at the podium to Islanders forward Kyle Okposo, a native of St. Paul. The Isles assistant captain said, “With the fifth overall pick, the Islanders select Ryan Strome.”

Fans at the Islanders Draft Party, some meandering through the arena floor and others seated in the stands for the best view of the live stream, cheered in excitement.

There was also a smaller celebration in the players’ lounge. John Tavares and Matt Moulson, long-time friends from their native Mississauga, Ontario, learned they’d be welcoming yet another friend to Long Island.

Strome, an 18-year-old center, has worked out at the same summer training center as Tavares and Moulson for the last few years and before the draft had even started, @MMoulson entered the twitterverse to wish his friend good luck. He tweeted, "@Strome18 Good luck tonight bud.”

“Stromer is the only player I know in the Draft, so I said it would be good to draft him,” Moulson said in a media scrum following the Islanders selection. “He’s a great player. He has great vision. I think that’s what he’s probably known for on the ice the most, is his vision and his hockey sense. He obviously has tremendous skill as well so it was a great pick for us and hopefully another building block into making this team great.”

After the pick, @MMoulson tweeted, "@Strome18 Congratulations!! (You) will look great in an Isles jersey.”

Tavares was equally thrilled for his friend.

“I’m so happy for him first and foremost, but also for our organization,” Tavares said. “I have never played with him, but his work ethic and the kind of person he is, he should be a great player here. The way he sees the ice is exceptional. In a few years, he could be one of the best players in that aspect of the game.”

The two just saw each other on Monday.

“We were in the gym on Monday talking about the possibility of it and his experience meeting with Garth (Snow) and the organization,” Tavares said. “I could see the excitement in him then and I’m sure he’s thrilled now.”

And as the Islanders young core continues to grow, Tavares knows Strome will be a good fit.

“He’s a great kid and has a great attitude,” Tavares said “He’ll fit right in for us.”

Fans at the Islanders Draft Party may not have had the first-hand experience with Strome that Moulson and Tavares had, but they were nevertheless excited about their new offensive prospect.

Michael Mignone, a long-time fan from Central Islip, was very happy with the pick.

“Strome is a very good pick,” Mignone said. “He’s a play-making forward which the Islanders need. They’re pretty stacked on defense. He’s a good addition to the Islanders and has a pretty good shot to make the opening day roster. I like this pick. I’m a big-time Islanders fan. I’ve been following them for twenty years and I love the pick.”

Twenty-four year old Anthony Benvenuto, from Levittown, liked Snow’s decision to go with a forward rather than a defenseman.

He said, “I think it’s a smart move getting a very talented forward in the draft. I think it’s a better decision than getting a defenseman. Rather a forward than a defenseman because that’s a talent that’s hard to come by. Defensemen can grow. We got Hamonic. We got de Haan and Donovan, guys that aren’t even on the team and still in the system. We have a lot of young defensemen. I think we need forwards. Hopefully Nino is on the team this year, and who knows, maybe Strome can compete for a spot on the team too.”

Fred Giumenta, a Farmindale resident, agreed, “He’s a highly skilled player who can play with John Tavares, a play-maker, and that’s what they need. I thought it was good pick overall.”

With the fans confident in the Islanders defensive core, they were excited to see one of the next up-and-coming offensive talents put on the orange and blue and pose for pictures alongside Snow, Okposo and Islanders Owner Charles Wang.
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