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Centres of Sens' attention: Ryan Strome

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Niagara IceDogs centre Ryan Strome has soared up the draft charts following a 106-point breakout season, but he's also gained plenty of notoriety from a spectacular goal last October that has been a YouTube hit, attracting more than 316,000 views (Photo by CHL Images).

(The Ottawa Senators hold the No. 6 overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minn. The Sens have targeted four centres among the prospects they're hopeful will be available when that first-round pick rolls around. We take a closer look at them all this week in a series of profiles for ottawasenators.com).

Ryan Strome admits he has a flair for seeking out the spotlight.

"I like the pressure," the Niagara IceDogs centre, a top prospect for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, told NHL.com. "I play best under the pressure. That's when I thrive. A player like myself, I live for those big games. I want people to be watching me. I want the spotlight on me."

But even Strome, an 18-year-old native of Mississauga, Ont., was more than just a little blown away by the notoriety he gained from a spectacular goal he scored in an Oct. 28 game against the Plymouth Whalers. Flying solo into the Plymouth end, Strome tucks the puck between his legs to elude a defender, appears to be headed behind the net but finds a way to wrap the puck around the post into the net.

"I was sitting down on the bench," IceDogs blueliner Dougie Hamilton, also a top prospect for the upcoming draft, told NHL.com. "I thought it was a 1-on-2 and I didn't really expect anything to happen. I stood up as he went around the (defenceman) and when he tucked it in, we went nuts on the bench."

So did the thousands of people who have since seen it on YouTube, where the goal has attracted more than 316,000 views. On NHL.com, it's pulled in nearly 50,000 more looks.

"It's cool to see your goals on YouTube," admitted Strome. "And NHL.com ... when I first heard that, I couldn't believe it. I thought someone was joking. That's pretty cool."

But Strome, one of a half-dozen players the Ottawa Senators are eyeing with the No. 6 selection in the first round of the 2011 draft, has plenty of substance to go with that style. It's the reason his risen from No. 19 in NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings of North American draft prospects to No. 8 in the final ratings. International Scouting Services slots Strome in at No. 9 overall in its latest rankings.

"He skates very well and has very good speed," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said of Strome, who's been compared favourably with rising Colorado Avalanche star Matt Duchene. "He's a creative playmaker who sees the ice very well. He goes to the net and battles in front. He is able to get to rebounds and loose pucks in front. He has good hands and has scored some goals off tip-ins in front (of the net)."

"I like the pressure. I play best under the pressure. That's when I thrive. A player like myself, I live for those big games. I want people to be watching me. I want the spotlight on me." - Ryan Strome
Strome erupted for 33 goals and 106 points in a breakout season for the IceDogs in 2010-11. The previous season, he was buried on a stacked Barrie Colts roster but got his opportunity to shine when he was moved to Niagara in a late-season deal for blueliner Alex Pietrangelo. He finished the campaign with only eight goals and 27 points, but a summer of hard off-season training set the table for a huge year at just the right time.

"I really dedicated my entrie summer, with the help of my parents and trainers," said Strome, who packed an extra 10-15 pounds on his 6-1 frame (he now weighs 183). "I was eating everything I could, I was at the gym 4-5 days a week. I really wanted to dedicate my summer, do everything I possibly could in the summer, so no matter how things turned out, I can say I did everything I could to get ready for (my draft season).

"Looking back at it, all those reps and extra meals my dad told me to eat, it's paying off."

Niagara coach Marty Williamson has noticed huge gains in Strome's battle level.

"Ryan is one of those guys that initiates contact and makes a great play," Williamson told NHL.com. "He plays in those traffic areas and he wins battles and then he makes great passes. He's got great vision ... He's confident, he feels good on the ice and when you have a lot of skill and confidence, good things happen."

While it's his offensive skills that have made Strome an Internet hit, he's also working hard to round out his game and become a more complete player.

"I think I worked on my two-way game as the season went on," he said. "I'm getting better at the little things in my own end and I can be an effective two-way centre."

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