Islanders prospect Ryan Strome is taking all the right steps to get to the National Hockey League.
The Islanders selected the Mississauga, ON, native with the fifth overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft, following his sophomore campaign with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League. Strome finished that season ranked third in the league with 73 assists and 106 points.
Strome, who turned 18 last summer, participated in Islanders training camp, and remained with the team after the final round of cuts. The Islanders, whose farm system was ranked no. 3 in the league by Hockey’s Future, decided to keep their top prospect with the team for two games to get a taste of the NHL before returning him to Niagara. Despite facing what many players would consider a demotion, Strome viewed it as an opportunity to improve his entire game.
“I wanted to become more of a two-way player and become more of a leader on my team and work on my all-around game, and I think I did that,” Strome said, at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season. “I feel like I’m a much more well-rounded player.”
Strome was able to do so without sacrificing his offensive game. The 6’0”, 183-pound center started his third year of major junior competition with a hat trick against Belleville and strung together a 13-game scoring streak (11 goals, nine assists) to begin the season. Strome’s Niagara teammate and fellow Islanders prospect Mitchell Theoret, believes Strome’s time in the NHL gave him a boost.
“When Ryan came back, he was more focused,” Theoret said. “You could see he had more of a pro mindset. The way he came to the rink every morning and did his workouts, it was very professional. For him, it was just all toward making the Islanders next season.”
Strome represented Canada in the World Junior Championship tournament in December and January, contributing three goals and six assists in six games and leading the Canadians to a bronze medal. Back with his club team, on March 12 Strome registered four assists in a 10-3 rout of Belleville, and followed that with a five-goal, one-assist effort the next night against Erie.
When asked about it, Strome downplays his gaudy numbers, focusing instead on his attempts to be a multi-faceted player.
I want to make it hard for them to send me back. - Ryan Strome
“I just want to go out there and do the best for my team, whether it’s setting up guys or scoring goals,” Strome said. “If I have a playmaker on my line, I think I can be a scorer, but if I have a scorer, I can be a playmaker.”
Theoret, the Islanders 7th round pick in 2011, was less shy about Strome’s ability to produce offensively.
“He’s just a natural talent,” Theoret said. “He’s great with the puck. He’s a great skater and he’s a great playmaker. He has vision that is second to none. He’s just a special kind of talent and that’s hard to come by.”
After scoring 30 goals and 38 assists this season, Strome helped lead the IceDogs to the best record in the OHL’s Eastern Conference and eventually a trip to the OHL Championship against the London Knights. While Niagara lost the final series in five games, Strome posted 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 20 post-season games.
After such a productive season in juniors, Strome has his focus on training and getting in the best possible shape for next season – maybe in the NHL.
“I just want to give myself the absolute best chance I can to make the Islanders,” Strome said. “I want to make it hard for them to send me back, if that’s what they’re going to do. I’ve just got to come in now and play the best I can.”
READ: OHL Playoffs blog | Strome at the 2012 Islanders Draft Party | IIHF World Championships blog