Ryan Strome spread his wings in his first full season with the New York Islanders.
Strome led the Islanders in plus/minus (+23) and was third on the team with 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) in 2014-15. While playing in 81 of 82 games he became a key contributor during the Islanders’ 101-point season, a versatile cog for head coach Jack Capuano.
After reaching the NHL as a center, Strome is training during the offseason with the expectation of moving to the wing.
“I’ve been working on my shot and I want to score more goals this year,” Strome said. “We have some great play-making centermen and if I’m going to be playing on the wing, I have to be ready to shoot that puck. And if I am playing on the [power play], I want my shot to be at the point where I am confident I can beat goalies.”
A natural center while playing junior hockey, Strome spent considerable time on the wing due to the Islanders’ overwhelming depth down the middle last season. The game is different along the boards, with different responsibilities. While centers support defensemen in the slot and in front of the net, wingers battle along the wall and have a different role in the breakout. Where Strome would have dished the puck as a center, he’ll be tasked with shooting it along the wing.
Strome was also focused on getting bigger. At 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, Strome is lean, but not dramatically undersized for the NHL. He’s comparable to center Frans Nielsen (6-1, 190) and left wing Josh Bailey (6-1, 194) and at just 22 years old, he still has room to develop physically.
“Getting a little bit bigger, that’s the next step for me if I want to take my game to the next level,” Strome said. “I’m happy with my progress so far, but I know there’s still six big, important weeks for me [before the season starts]. I want to come in and take that next step and show everyone I can continue to progress every year, be a better player in this league and continue to push myself.”
Strome has combined that clear focus with lessons learned from his roommate, Islanders captain John Tavares
. He took some time off at the start of the summer to rest and recover, following the captain’s example to work smarter, as well as harder.
“The little things you pick up on during the year, especially living with a guy like Johnny, I think that’s all attributed to a good offseason so far,” Strome said. “I feel rejuvenated and like I’ve had a good rest. I’ve let my body heal and feel ready to go.”
Even during that early resting period, Strome’s attention remained with hockey. His one vacation this summer was a trip to Florida to be with his brother, Dylan, at the NHL Draft. Dylan, a standout with the Erie Otters, was drafted third overall by the Arizona Coyotes. Ryan, selected fifth overall in 2011, has dedicated his summer to being with his brother as he adjusts to his newfound celebrity at the start of his NHL journey.
“It’s pretty cool to see him in the spotlight,” Strome said. “I’m getting to spend a lot more time with him this summer and it’s been great. We’re obviously really close, but it’s cool to be together every day and see him grow. He’s right there knocking on the door of being an NHL player and it’s awesome to see from where he’s come.”
|Ryan Strome (left) poses with brothers Dylan (center) and Matthew (right) at the 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise, FL. |
The hockey gene runs deep in the family. Strome’s youngest brother, Matthew, was drafted eighth overall by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL Priority Selection in April. He’ll be eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft, so eventually all three brothers could be in the league at the same time.
“[Dylan] is definitely is very recognizable,” Strome said. “To see people go up and ask him and even my younger brother for autographs … it’s fun to go to the rink to see that and my parents get a bit of a kick out of it too. They worked hard for everything they’ve earned. If they keep doing what they are doing, they are on the right track.”
The same goes for Strome, who is ramping up his training for the final push of the summer.
“Once the schedule got released, that was the first real sign that the season was around the corner,” Strome said. “I definitely like where I am at, but this is the most important time of the summer, the last six or seven weeks, that push to get ready for the season and come in flying in September.”