Ryan Strome, the New York Islanders fifth-overall draft choice in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is the only player selected in the top ten of his draft class that has yet to play a game at the NHL-level. Since Garth Snow called his name on draft day, Strome has compiled 162 points over 99 games with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL before registering 7 points in 10 games at the end of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 2012-13 season. There is still no guarantee that Strome separates himself from the distinction that differentiates him from the other nine top-ten 2011 draft selections.
Bad timing? Maybe. The Islanders boast one of the deepest groups of forwards in the NHL. Looking through their current roster, it’s hard to see any player as “expendable.” On paper, the Isles are in good shape for the upcoming campaign – one that should result in the franchise’s next step up the league’s current food chain. The team’s offensive unit is not going to be an easy one for Strome to break into; however, it shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for him to make his debut this season, maybe even on October 4th.
His journey begins tonight in Regina, Saskatchewan, and Calgary, Alberta as the Isles take on the Calgary Flames in two split-squad games to kick-off their preseason.
It is widely expected that Strome will be on a forward line with fellow prospects Brock Nelson and Anders Lee at even strength. Nelson and Lee have been matched with Strome up to this point of training camp. It’s possible that all three are competing for the same roster spot. While some may dispute this, arguing the current opening is on the third-line – a role that wouldn’t showcase Strome’s ability to its fullest – it’s widely assumed he could [potentially] provide the extra juice needed to catapult him into the team’s top-six.
The key for Strome is his play on special teams, or more specifically, the power play. As Arthur Staple, the Isles beat writer at Newsday, noted yesterday morning, head coach Jack Capuano stated that Strome will be receiving ice time with the man advantage. Translation: Strome could be receiving power play time with John Tavares and Matt Moulson on the Isles top power play unit.
Sure, “where’s Pierre-Marc Bouchard?” He will be there, but Staple also mentioned yesterday that Bouchard was practicing on the point of the team’s second power play unit. If that holds, the door could be wide open for Ryan to succeed.
He’s demonstrated it time-and-time again, the uncanny ability to do just about anything in the offensive zone if he gets enough space. As if Tavares and Moulson weren’t already a handful for opposing penalty-killers, Strome could add the scoring touch or the playmaking prowess to use the open ice to its fullest. Considering the team’s power [play] in crucial moments down the stretch last season, it could be the missing piece to an Islanders organization that may be only one or two pieces away from being the toughest offense to play against.
This isn’t a knock on Nelson or Lee. Both are fantastic prospects. Strome could be the guy that tilts the ice in the Islanders favor on a nightly basis – an added dimension to a team that lost their No. 3 and No. 4 power play scorers from last season – and it all starts with the man-advantage this preseason.