Having secured the top selection for the second consecutive season, discussion revolving around the Oilers’ game plan for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft has begun to intensify. A year ago, Edmonton’s splash was made as a dynamic winger entered the organization with a gleaming skill-set that sparked unparalleled energy throughout Oil Country as the 2010-11 season got underway. Taylor Hall
delivered in his abbreviated rookie season. In only a matter of months, another new and equally as exciting young prospect will be welcomed to the podium by General Manager Steve Tambellini and his crew of talented scouts.
With an increasing need for depth at the centre position, in addition to the requirement of a solid, number one defenceman, choices seem endless. Red Deer Rebels (WHL) centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
recently vaulted to the peak of the latest NHL Central Scouting rankings, causing the middleman talk to heat up even more.
But with two opening round picks to work with, Edmonton’s game plan could change through the remarkable rise of Niagara IceDogs centre Ryan Strome. The clever, two-way forward has skated through a sensational campaign with his southern-Ontario club.
In 65 regular season games this year in the OHL, Strome produced 33 goals and 106 points. It was a season themed upon an incredible rise. During the 2009-10 campaign, an abbreviated 27-game season, Strome was only able to accumulate 13 points.
Even with the unexpected increase, the well-spoken 17-year-old remains humble.
"Personally, I think I came a long way from last season," Strome said. "I think I struggled a bit [last season] and showed some spurts of potential, but I didn't do as much as I wanted to do."
"Coming into this year, I had high expectations for myself. I think I've accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to do. I think I'm a much better player -- well-rounded, can score goals and put up the points."
Although the 6’1" 183 pound forward had those high expectations, Strome was sure to keep an even keel to prevent any unreasonable pressure.
"I didn't really set any goals because I wasn't really sure what to expect," he said. "There are a lot of intangibles and things that can happen. I just wanted to have a good year and make sure the team did well, and all the personal success just followed."
Individual success has always been a secondary component to his ultra-competitive mentality. The goal this season was to help his team improve and ensure that the club was progressing en route to an OHL championship.
"I think we over-exceeded everyone's expectations," Strome said. "We've come a long way and I think most people expected us to be middle of the pack. To finish being ranked top 10 in the CHL and now be on our way to the Eastern Conference Finals, I think we exceeded a lot of expectations and we did very well for ourselves this year."
As expected, the OHL post-season has the young forward immersed in the task at hand. Even so, the prospect of being selected high in June has Strome understandably excited.
"You can’t help but get excited for something like that," he said. "It’s an incredible time for me and the other prospects, so I’m looking forward to it for sure."
As he should. With such a dynamic skill-set that features an incredible goal-scoring potential, his raw talent could be an excellent addition to any NHL club.
"I think I'm a playmaker first. I'm generally a centreman that's going to find my wingers and make good passes and make my teammates better," Strome explained. "I think I have a scoring touch. I really worked on that this summer. I shot a lot of pucks and I really wanted to focus on goal scoring."
It’s a valuable skill that has been derived by desire and necessity.
"I know that goalies are getting better and better, so you've got to have a harder shot."
"My offensive skill is certainly the best part of my game. I think I've got to keep improving on that. If I want to make the jump, I've got to work on all aspects of my game, because at the next level everyone's that much better -- that much quicker, that much stronger," Strome said.
"I know I have a lot of work to do, but I think at the next level I can be an offensive centre; a guy who makes his teammates around him better, but also a guy who's reliable in all situations."
That dedication to improve has already created something special for Strome as an individual, and for his contending Niagara squad.
"I’m going to put up points, but over the year I've really come a long way with my two-way play; little things like faceoffs like work in my own end. Most importantly, I think these skills have helped the team get some wins. That’s what matters right now."
Currently ranked eighth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Ryan Strome could potentially be an enticing option for the Oilers as June quickly approaches.
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com