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Erie's Dylan Strome ready to follow brother's path

by Mike G. Morreale

Erie Otters forward Dylan Strome can recall the excitement watching his older brother head to the podium after the New York Islanders had just selected him with the fifth pick in the 2011 NHL Draft at Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.

"We were kind of in shock," he said. "My brother just went fifth overall in the NHL draft and I'm like, 'Wow.' It's something that happens just once in your lifetime and it was pretty cool to be a part of it from right there in the fifth row.

"Hopefully, I can live that day again."

There's no reason to think Strome won't get a little déjà vu on June 26 when the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft is held at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound left-handed shot has been everything advertised after the Otters selected him No. 2 in the 2013 Ontario Hockey League draft.

The Otters managerial team saw Strome as that big-time point producer behind Connor McDavid, a projected top-two pick at the 2015 draft, and he's become just that.

Strome might be needed even more after McDavid sustained a right hand injury in a fight on Nov. 11 at Erie Insurance Arena. Either way, he has become an integral part of the team's ascent in the OHL.

It was only two seasons ago the Otters finished last in the OHL's Western Conference with 19 wins and 47 points, while being outscored 312-206. This year the team is first in the OHL with 16 wins and 33 points and has outscored the opposition 102-48 in 18 games.

"I find myself in more of an offensive-type role and who needs to produce points for the team, kill penalties and basically do whatever the coaching staff needs," Strome said.

Strome ranks second in the league with 41 points (13 goals, 28 assists) in 18 games. He and McDavid (16 goals, 51 points) have ranked among the top two in the OHL all season.

"We're doing as much as we can to help the team win and if the points come, the points come," Strome said. "At the end of the day, it's more about the team winning than any personal statistics."

Don't think for a second McDavid doesn't realize how important Strome is to the team, either.

"He doesn't get the credit he deserves," McDavid told NHL Live earlier this season.

The native of Mississauga, Ontario, can excel with or without McDavid as a linemate. When he's with the tremendously gifted blue-chip prospect, Strome usually shifts to left wing. When Erie coach Kris Knoblauch opts to separate the two, Strome centers Mason Marchment and either Taylor Raddysh or Alex DeBrincat.

"It's sometimes an advantage when I'm not playing with Connor on the road because teams will focus on him, so as a line we're looking to pick it up," Strome said. "Sometimes coach feels we have a good matchup against a certain D-pairing or third or fourth line that could create offense. We've been creating offense, and because of that [I] don't have to keep playing on the same line [with McDavid]."

Strome had 10 goals and 39 points in 60 games as a rookie with the Otters in 2013-14. He excelled in a gold medal-winning performance for Canada at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, producing five goals and six points in five games.

"If I were to compare him to a player back in the days of junior hockey, I'd say Keith Primeau (Hamilton Steelhawks/Niagara Falls Thunder, OHL); he's a strong skater and has got the agility and reach that scouts love," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "Strome and [Boston University freshman] Jack Eichel are probably the two best puck-protection players in this draft class.

"Strome is really strong on his feet, protects the puck from any checking pressure and can circle it out from down low."

Marr said Strome brings the same competitive pedigree his brother Ryan possessed his draft year.

"He has that competitive edge and grittiness; he wants to succeed, wants the puck, wants to score and wants to win," Marr said. "He's a driven player. That's what made his brother such a successful player. He didn't have the size but definitely had the desire."

Ryan Strome spent two extra seasons in the OHL with the Niagara IceDogs after being drafted. He had 33 goals and 106 points in 65 games in his draft season.

"I watched him a little as an underage player and he had a really good shot and was a good passer," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "This year, he's showing us those soft hands and that shooter reputation. That's going to make him super dangerous."

Ryan Strome was No. 8 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American players eligible for the 2011 draft. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Dylan received similar acclaim in April, and the youngest Strome, 15-year-old Matthew, is a likely top pick in the upcoming OHL priority selection.

"We're such a hockey-centric family and my parents are usually in different cities at different times," Dylan Strome said. "Even now, Ryan is in Long Island, my little brother is in Mississauga, my dad is in New York and my mom is in Erie, but we still love it and wouldn't trade it for anything."

Dylan said he and Ryan either text or talk every day.

"It's important to stay close with someone who has been through the experiences I'm going through now and has had some emotional ups and downs," Dylan said. "I'll watch his games and text him my opinion afterward. When your older brother is playing in the NHL there's no need to give him too many pointers, but I study the game and watch it a lot so he listens to what I have to say."


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