Since his draft day in 2011, the countdown to Ryan Strome's time on Long Island has been on.
After spending two more seasons in junior, two offseasons training with John Tavares and 33 games in the American Hockey League, Strome got his call. He was brought up by the Islanders Wednesday morning.
“It was a great phone call to get and I will remember it forever,” the newest Islander said. “At the same time there is a lot of work to be done, and I don’t want to just come up for a cup of coffee. I want to show that I belong, help the team win and prove my spot in the line-up. I want to show them that I’m ready to come up and they made the right choice.”
Selected with the fifth-overall pick in the 2011 draft, Strome led the AHL in scoring at the time of his call up, with 33 points (9g/24a) in 23 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Mississauga, Ont., native has 17 points (5g/12a) on a current nine-game point streak.
That type of production was common for Strome in junior hockey, where he posted 295 points in 225 regular-season games, but it was a surprise to see him – or any rookie – dominate the American league right out of the gate.
“From day one, he was on a mission,” Sound Tigers head coach Scott Pellerin said. “Offensively he brought it to a whole new level, one that I haven’t seen in a long, long time. The stretch he’s had was quite amazing.”
Strome was drafted for his high-end playmaking skill. He creates space for himself and teammates with his versatile offensive ability. But to reach his goal of being an effective NHL center, the highly-touted prospect's focus shifted to the defensive side of his game.
“I was constantly watching video and working on all the little things I could to make me better,” he said. “It’s about doing little things everyday and not cutting corners.”
"He’s been able to play smart with and without the puck and sustain that level of consistency in his game.” - Scott Pellerin
Coach Pellerin lauded Strome’s character, citing his ability to identify his mistakes, self-correct and form better habits on the ice. An enthusiastic student, Strome absorbed all he could from the Sound Tigers coaching staff and fast-tracked his own development.
“(Pellerin and assistant coach Eric Boguniecki) taught me whatever they could and have been so approachable,” Strome said. “I am very thankful for what they have done for me. That’s the job in the American league, to develop players, and they do a great job of that.”
Developing off the island allowed Strome to mature both physically and mentally before joining the big club. The 2013-version of Strome is bigger and smarter and uses his hockey IQ to protect himself on the ice.
“He knows when to go in and elevate his compete level to win puck battles, but also when to not to put himself in an area where he’s going to get outmuscled or hit,” Pellerin said. “There’s a fine line there, but he’s been able to play smart with and without the puck and sustain that level of consistency in his game.”
Strome scored 1.21 points per game with Bridgeport, and made quick work of the American league, but taking the next step is arguably the hardest, even for a player of his caliber.
“I put up some good numbers in the American league but I don’t think that’s going to come right away in the next level,” he said. “The NHL is the best league in the world and it’s always an adjustment. As a young guy you want to come in and shorten that learning curve and help your team as much as possible. I think I’ve done a good job of preparing myself for this next step.”
The stage is set for Strome. He’s finally been voted onto the island.