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FOREWORD

BY DYLAN STROME

Ryan was flying from Toronto to Chicago, I was flying from Arizona to Chicago. We were on the plane at the same time.

As soon as I landed I saw he messaged me, "Text me when you land."

I didn't even check Twitter, I just responded, "I landed."

He called me right away, as soon as I had touched the ground, and he just told me he got traded. Then I checked Twitter and obviously, it was right there, the first thing I saw was that.

It was kind of my first reaction, he's joked with me before that he got traded, so I needed to make sure on Twitter that it was actually true.

He was over the moon and excited to be an Oiler. He was very excited and I was very excited for him. The opportunity he's going to get, how good Edmonton is and how good the players are, and obviously a pretty special player he gets to play with, it's pretty cool. 

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

BY MEG TILLEY

Ryan Strome was suspended in mid-air, cruising at roughly 39,000 feet, give or take. 

Having woken from a nap, the 24-year-old noticed the aircraft was offering free WiFi. Like it would to anyone, 'FREE' sounded pretty enticing, so he pulled out his phone and clicked to connect. 

It's important to note that his focus at this time, aside from the last remnants of slumber that he was shaking off, was solely on his youngest brother, Matthew, who was in Chicago - Ryan's flight destination - preparing for the 2017 NHL Draft, eventually becoming the third and final Strome brother drafted into the league after being selected in the fourth round, 106th overall, by the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Suddenly, Ryan's phone caught his attention, having inadvertently worked itself into a frenzy.  

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Strome looked down. One by one, incoming message after incoming message flooded his inbox, with the most common question being posed: What's going on?

"I remembered seeing on Twitter that there was a trade but the player hadn't been notified," said Strome. "Then I got all these messages coming in, and I'm like, 'Oh, this must be me.'"

"My parents are going, 'What's going on?' My girlfriend is going, 'What's going on?' My buddies are going, 'Oh my god, you just got traded,' they're trying to plan a trip to Edmonton already. I'm in Chicago, my phone battery's low, I'm in the airport with all of my luggage - it was a whirlwind."

With his feet now firmly on the ground inside O'Hare International Airport, Strome made a phone call to New York Islanders General Manager, Garth Snow, where it was confirmed that he had been traded in a player-for-player deal to the Edmonton Oilers for forward Jordan Eberle. 

And so, began a new adventure

A GOOD FIT

"It was a function of a number of different things," said Oilers General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, when addressing the media after the Eberle-for-Strome trade with the New York Islanders was made official on June 22, 2017.

"One, the chance to acquire a player like Ryan Strome, two, no secret, we've got to clear up some space to sign both Connor [McDavid] and Leon [Draisaitl], and three, it was just a deal. There are times when these deals come about and you have to act on them."

Strome's ability to man the wing or play up the middle was an attractive quality that Chiarelli saw as an added bonus among his list of needs.

"He's got good size, he's got a terrific wrist shot… A very, very cerebral player, he can play centre or the wing, very good on the half-wall, these are all some of the things that Jordan has, but when we can save some cap space going forward, we're going to have to do it," said the Oilers GM.

"That's the reality of building the teams these days. So, it was a good fit from a hockey perspective, it was a good fit from a team building and cap perspective."

Strome is no stranger to being traded in the realm of hockey.

At the tender age of 15, the young forward was making an impact with the Toronto Marlboros in the Greater Toronto Hockey League during the 2008-09 season where he registered 164 points (85G, 79A) in 76 games.

His outstanding performance was unquestionable to the Barrie Colts, who selected Strome eighth overall at the Ontario Hockey League's (OHL's) 2009 Priority Draft. But a rocky start with his new team saw the Colts trade Strome mid-season to the Niagara IceDogs.

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"I had been there for two months, I had no idea what was going on, my mom came and helped me pack up my stuff, I forgot my suit, I really had no idea what was going on," said Strome.

"I go to a new team and I [went from] fourth line to the first line, so it was awesome for me. My billets at my new house were like my second parents now. I still talk to them all the time, it was the best thing that could have happened to me."

The change seemed to spark something in the young forward, who began to excel at his offensive game in the 2010-11 season, accumulating 106 points (33G, 73A) and finishing third in OHL scoring. He was named "OHL Player of the Month" in January 2011, selected to the OHL Second All-Star Team at year's end and voted the Most Improved Player and Best Playmaker in the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches Poll.

After a second season with the IceDogs, Strome became eligible for the 2011 NHL Draft, where he was selected fifth overall by the Islanders. After being drafted, he spent another season with Niagara before joining the Islanders' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.

His call-up to the Islanders came midway through the 2013-14 season after he was already making a name for himself leading the AHL in points through the first 23 games of the season, registering 33 points on nine goals and 24 assists.

"It was cool," said Strome, smiling as he fondly looked back on that moment. "I think I was the last guy out of the top 10 in the draft that got called up. For me, it was really motivating to get my shot in. They made me earn it, on the Islanders, that was fun I was fine with that."

Strome not only got the chance to get his feet wet at the highest level of hockey but relish in the moment of scoring his first NHL goal on Jan. 6, 2014, against Dallas Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen.

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"I actually got to go on the power play that game because Kyle Okoposo was having a baby, so he was out of the game," said Strome. "I was on the power play and the puck squirted free…I had some great chances…I remember John Tavares, one of my closest buddies, he was on the ice and he got me the puck."

The goal, a power-play marker assisted by Islanders forwards Tavares and Thomas Vanek, broke the ice for the highly-regarded first-year pro and any residual nerves he was carrying.

"I remember, actually, the next game we were playing in Toronto, I was obviously a Toronto guy, so the overwhelmingness of your first goal, then going to Toronto for the first time…It was pretty special," said Strome.

The following 2014-15 season saw the six-foot-one forward gain confidence, putting up his best offensive season with the Islanders and finishing with 50 points (17G, 33A) in 81 regular season games, and four points in seven post-season games. In 258 regular season games, Strome amassed 126 points (45G, 81A) with the New York team, as well as eight points in 15 post-season games.

His time with the Islanders would not only see the young forward finally live out the days he only dreamed of back home in his Mississauga neighbourhood driveway but would prove to serve as a series of 'firsts' for him and his brothers.

THREE'S COMPANY

From a young age, Strome, the oldest of three brothers, unknowingly took on the role as a trailblazer for his siblings, Dylan, 20, and Matthew, 19.

"He had tons of impact on myself," said Dylan, who was selected third overall at the 2015 NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes. 

"My dad never played professional hockey but he loved hockey growing up and loved other sports too, lacrosse in particular. We certainly followed Ryan in every team he played for, I think I played for the same teams [he did] growing up, since I was six, until when he got drafted in the OHL. We obviously got drafted to different teams, but [before then] I didn't really know what path I was going to take. I think I just kind of followed Ryan's footsteps." 

In many ways, Dylan and Matthew credit Strome for inspiring them to pursue their own hockey careers, while his dad, Chris, is credited with that title for him.  

"My dad put us in hockey and we just lived hockey," said Strome. "It was road hockey, mini sticks, the Mighty Ducks movies…it was non-stop. That's what we were good at, quite frankly. We found what we were good at, at a young age, we loved it and we enjoyed it."

Growing up in the Lorne Park neighbourhood of Mississauga, the Strome household was full of rambunctious roughhousing mixed with brotherly love and, especially, competition.

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"We'd always be playing mini sticks or basketball or road hockey," said Matthew. "I think that neither of us wanted to lose, and I think just having that competition really helped us in hockey down the line."

For the Strome boys, hockey came naturally, but their competitive nature only encouraged each other to be bigger and better. 

"When [Ryan] was drafted into the OHL, I was in my second year of Triple-A, so I just kind of knew from right then that I wanted to be like him and play in the OHL," said Matthew, who currently plays for the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs and has registered 65 points (35G, 30A) in 62 games so far this season.  

"From a really young age, he would always [encourage] me…I'd always see what he was doing and I wanted to be just like him." 

All three brothers were first-round picks in their OHL draft years with Ryan going first when he was selected eighth overall by the Barrie Colts in 2009. Dylan followed suit in 2013 when he went second overall with the Erie Otters, while Matthew rounded out the group, going eighth overall with the Bulldogs in 2015. 

"When Ryan got drafted into the OHL I got to go to so many games…the amount of games me and my little brother got to go to and watch and see how fun it looked to play in front of a crowd and in sold-out buildings, I think, we both wanted to do that," said Dylan. 

"We just wanted to follow in Ryan's footsteps…For our OHL draft, there was no question in our mind that we wanted to follow what Ryan did and the path that Ryan set up."

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Though each Strome brother dabbled in different sports growing up, playing lacrosse in the off-season, there came a time when they had to forgo the extracurricular activity in order to solely focus on the goal at hand: working towards a full-time hockey career in the NHL. 

But with an undetermined future playing professionally for the young teens at this time, their amateur resumes were nothing short of impressive when it came to organizing road-hockey tournaments with friends that lived in the neighbourhood.

"We used to do that when we were a lot younger," said Dylan. "We have really good family friends, and they have three boys as well, all around the same age as me, Ryan and Matt, we always got together with them and made little Stanley Cups or little mini-games and had a lot of fun. It was very intense."

Sending out text messages, running around the street and knocking on doors, it was common practice to see the brothers get their own road-hockey playoff series started, with high hopes that their simulation would one day morph into a bigger stage for each of them.

Little did they know, for two of the three brothers, it would soon play out in front of a live crowd of over 17,000. 

GOING THE DISTANCE

It was Oct. 21, 2016.

Barclays Center in Brooklyn seemed to fill to the point of breaking capacity. Among the crowd of eager onlookers were the Strome parents, Chris and Trish, and extended family.

It may have felt like just another game night for most of the players and fans in attendance, but for the Strome surname, it was an evening full of excitement mixed with a dash of anxiety.

Strome, now at a senior status having been with the Islanders for the last four years, was about to have a new experience - something only 29 other brother combinations in NHL history have had - facing off against his younger sibling, Dylan, now a budding prospect of the Arizona Coyotes.

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Much like his older brother, Dylan had a successful junior career in the OHL, registering 354 points (114G, 240A) in 219 regular season games with the Erie Otters, as well as 86 points (37G, 49A) in 69 post-season games. He was also a first-round pick, with the Coyotes selecting him two spots higher than Ryan at third overall at the 2015 NHL Draft.

"I think it was only my third game ever, so I was still kind of trying to find my way," said Dylan.

"I hadn't scored my first goal yet, I was still nervous, our team was trying to get our first win, so there were a lot of things that I had to deal with…. I was kind of just pretty much trying to play hockey but there were so many distractions with my brother there."

"That's actually one of my favourite memories of my hockey career so far," said Ryan. "I think, just overall, I know I made it…but to see your brother do it and then to be with you [in that capacity] is unreal. I know my parents were just an emotional mess. Just to see your brother live his dream out right in front of you and then to compete was amazing. Honestly, you think about it but you never actually think it's going to happen and it did."

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It was the first of two meetings for Dylan and Ryan, who met once more the following season on the latter Strome brother's new home ice, Rogers Place, on Nov. 28, 2017, which saw Edmonton defeat Arizona in an exciting 3-2 overtime win. 

Since his arrival in Alberta's capital city, Strome feels as though he's found his footing with his new team, having registered 31 points (12G, 19A) in 68 games thus far. 

"The hardest part about transitioning from one franchise to another would be the things that people wouldn't even think about," he said. 

"The language that people use around here, the coaching staff, getting to know your trainers and your teammates, that goes a long way. I'm a pretty outgoing guy, pretty calm, like to have fun…have a lot of team camaraderie, and when you come to a new team you're kind of quiet, that's a big adjustment."

If Strome had any reservations, Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan made it clear that he knew what the right-shot forward was capable of. 

"He's a utility player," said McLellan. "He has the ability to play centre and has in the past. He's been able to win faceoffs and he's also comfortable on the wings. We have the luxury of moving players around. As the fans here know, we like to do that. We like to have utility players that can move in and out from line to line."

In October 2017, Strome secured his first goal as an Oiler against the Carolina Hurricanes, which helped put to bed any additional nerves he may have been experiencing upon his arrival at the start of the season. Come December, thanks to a feed from teammate Leon Draisaitl, Strome potted not only his fifth goal of the season, but the first of two that night, which in turn, was also the 10,000th goal in Oilers franchise history.

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"I had no idea. I actually, I was kind of nervous because, when I scored they said, '10,000th' and I'm going, 'Oh my god, what did I do?'" he said. "It was my 30th game as an Oiler and I scored the 10,000th goal, I was probably the last guy anyone would have predicted [to do that], so it was kind of cool." 

But for Strome, it's not just about his own achievements, which have seen a lot of firsts for the family, it's also about celebrating the success of his younger brothers. 

"None of us, as much as people might think, none of us really got anything easy," he said. 

"My parents, they just want us to be good people, they wanted us to be good students and the hockey thing just kind of worked out, that was just kind of a bonus. To be where we are - obviously you want to be the best you can be - but right now everything is just a cherry on top. Being brothers from Canada, playing in the NHL's a dream, the success is awesome, but I think we're very tight, we're very lucky, we're healthy, we're happy, our family's very close and we're just living our dream." 

These days, the Strome brothers have come to find themselves spread out across a continent. Though they may not be running around knocking on doors to ask one another to come out and play, they find ways to stay close, ensuring they never lose touch while the business of hockey hovers around them.

"We try and talk almost every day," said Matthew, referring to the family group chat they keep between one another and their parents. "I think, just checking up on each other, seeing how we're doing, seeing how they're living, how their practices were. We try and talk every day and if it's not every day it's for sure every other day."

"We play Xbox with each other too," said Dylan. "We've been playing lots of that with each other, so, we definitely keep in touch every day."

Strome may have blazed a trail: first to be drafted in the OHL, followed by the NHL, first to score an NHL goal and experience his first brotherly matchup. But with Dylan on deck and the youngest of the Strome brothers in the wings, the only remaining question is, when the time comes, who will be first to face-off against Matthew on the big stage?

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