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Renewed Strome could be back at center

The 23-year-old changed his offseason routine, skated as center to open training camp

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

Ryan Strome was back at center on the first day of Islanders training camp - and it's possible he could be there to start the season as well. 

Strome skated between Anders Lee and Josh Bailey in the second group of Friday's skate at Northwell Health Ice Center and while that move back to center isn't official, the 23-year-old would welcome it. 

"If that's the way it shakes out, then that'd be great," Strome said. "Obviously it'd be a bit of an adjustment just trying to get back to it. Nothing I'm not used to, I've been a centerman a lot of my life."

The Islanders fifth-overall pick in 2011 was originally drafted as a center, but a crowded field down the middle had him mostly playing left wing. It was fine when he scored 50 points in 2014-15, but after seeing those totals drop to 28 points last season, moving him back to his natural position may help get him back on the right track. 

"I think it'll help him to be in the middle. He wants the puck, he distributes the puck, he sees the ice and the difference is he has that deceptive speed," assistant coach and assistant GM Doug Weight said. "I think it's the right spot for him. Whether it stays, well we have five or six guys that can play the middle."

Weight said Strome's defensive awareness also makes him a good candidate for playing center and his lanky frame maybe wasn't the best fit along the wall. General Manager Garth Snow said over the summer that he thinks Strome is most effective at center and that the previous center-heavy makeup of the team forced him to the wing. 

But for Strome, rebounding from last year is about more than just switching positions. He knew he had to make changes, so he altered his offseason training, his offseason training partners and his diet. 

"I bought a house, lived on my own and grew up a little bit," Strome said. "Taking some initiative and taking things upon myself to make myself better and be responsible. I like where I'm at."

"We wanted him to eat good food and push a lot of weight and just work his butt off and push the process to push beyond what he's pushed before," Weight said. 

Strome took it seriously, but he still couldn't resist having some fun with it and letting his personality shine through. 

"I have a lot of pictures of Ryan walking out of Whole Foods holding his chicken breast or his fillet and pointing to the sign," Weight said. 

Strome was part of an excited and optimistic Islanders group on Thursday, a group that said they were ready to build off of last year's season and improve. Whether he's at center or wing, Strome just wants to fully put last season behind him, so this season can't come soon enough. 

"What I learned last year is that it's a long season with a lot of ups and downs, so you have to stay even keeled as long as you can," Strome said. "I did a lot of good things this summer; hopefully they translate to training camp and into the season. I'm very optimistic about the season, the group we have and I'm really looking forward to it."

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