Wednesday night was a rocking New Year’s Eve for Ryan Strome.
The second-year Islander had a career-high, four-point night (one goal, three assists) in the Islanders 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets, having a hand in every Islanders goal except Josh Bailey’s empty-netter. Strome said post game that he wouldn’t let the stat line determine whether or not he played a good game, but the performance was indicative of his development this season. The Mississauga, ON, native is tied with Brock Nelson for third in team scoring with 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) through 37 games.
“It’s good to have a good night, but before that I went four or five games without a point,” Strome said. “So it’s about staying positive and doing the right things and good things will happen over a long period of time.”
Despite the solid offensive output, Head Coach Jack Capuano has been admittedly hard on the Islanders sophomore, urging him throughout the season to get to the dirty areas around the net and along the boards. Some players don’t respond well to tough love, but Strome has heeded the coach’s message. Strome stood in the crease Wednesday night, letting the puck carom off his body before crossing the goal line. He was in a similar spot when he assisted on Anders Lee’s third-period tally.
“I’d rather have a coach that’s more honest than one that gives you too much that you don’t deserve,” Strome said. “At times you have to take things with a grain of salt and stay strong within, but all in all I think I’ve always had my coaches be pretty hard on me and it’s because they expect more out of me. I expect the same out of myself. We have a good relationship.”
That doesn’t mean Capuano doesn’t give Strome credit where it’s due. Strome has six points (one goal, five assists) in his last two games, leads the team in multi-point games (eight) and multi-assist games (six). Capuano likes the growth he’s seen in his game away from the puck too.
“There’s more edge to his game,” Capuano said. “We expressed what he had to do to make sure that he would be an impact player for us. He’s done it and is progressing with what we want him to do. We know he has the flicker and the offensive skill, but it’s the ability to get to those dirty areas, the interior of the ice. Right now he’s doing that for us.”
Long characterized as undersized (though he stands 6’1), Strome is using his body effectively. He is winning more battles along the wall and is driving his 196 lbs. frame between the opposition and the puck. Strome had three takeaways against the Washington Capitals on Monday. He also had two assists.
“I’m 21-years-old now, which is a big difference from being 18 or 19,” Strome said. “Obviously learning how to protect the puck and how to play at this size is a big thing and just getting more comfortable helps a lot too.”