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FEATURE: Strome finds his fit

Oilers centre established his position on the ice and home off it after signing a two-year deal with the Oilers

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Ryan Strome marked his territory.

Both on the ice and in Alberta's capital after inking a two-year deal worth $6.2 million with the Oilers organization on Friday.

"For the first time in my career, I've found a little bit of a home," the 24-year-old said by phone from a friend's cottage in Prince Edward Island. "Towards the end of the season, I started to really feel comfortable. 

"I told my agent, 'I'm a big believer in what's going on in Edmonton.'"

Video: SJS@EDM: Strome nets 10,000th goal in Oilers history

The centre established his position on the squad past the midway point of the 2017-18 season when he became Edmonton's third-line middleman and a cog on both special teams units. The pivot ended the campaign tied for fourth in team scoring, notching 13 goals and 34 points in 82 games.

"On any team when you have the likes of (Connor) McDavid, (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins, (Leon) Draisaitl and all these great players you have to find a bit of a role," Strome said. "With the penalty kill a little bit and being able to chip in on the power play, I think I have a pretty good skill set."

Although it took some time for things to settle in. There are challenges that come with being a key piece of a major transaction, and a certified spot on a National Hockey League lineup isn't given easily.

"Everything's a little magnified when you get traded for a great player like Jordan Eberle," Strome said. "You're in a city like Edmonton with a lot of eyes on you, a lot of pressure and we had a lot of expectations as a team. We didn't fulfill those expectations, so everything's magnified."

Strome tallied 19 points in his first 49 games as an Oiler, being tested at both the wing and centre positions. By February, it was beginning to become clear that the Mississauga, ON, product was finding a groove up the middle of the ice as opposed to along the boards. Strome potted five goals and five assists in 14 outings that month.

"I think I started to find a little bit of a role," he said. "I could shuffle around the lineup a little bit, do a little bit of everything that's needed, as well as play centre. 

"That was big for me."

Video: EDM@BOS: Strome nets wicked bar-down wrister

Strome's stand within the forward cast was integral to re-signing with the organization. Compound that with his belief in the current group and the strides he made with Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan, not only has his usage on the ice been established, so too has his home off it.

"I think Todd and me were on the same wavelength at the end of the year," Strome, who saw his average time on ice increase from 14:39 before the NHL All-Star Break to 16:03 after it, said. "It was nice to feel comfortable, wanted and useful towards the team. Hopefully, things continue to grow like they did at the end of the year."

In preparing for the 2018-19 season, the forward's started the dialogue with the assistant coaches - Glen Gulutzan, Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros - and likes what he's heard so far, in terms of each can bring to the table when trying to optimize the performance of their players.

"They're all going to bring a different aspect," Strome added. "You have coaches coming in from very established franchises that have been around a lot of great players and seen a lot of different things. Sometimes a new set of eyes might be a good thing."

Strome understands the pressures that come with the turf. Being an Edmonton Oiler comes with lofty demands but the centre's belief hasn't wavered since he was first acquired.

"When you have a couple of the best players in the world on your team, there's a good chance you're going to be successful. I want to be part of that. 

"There's no place I'd rather be."

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