Getting To Know NHL Top Prospect Ryan Strome

Photo Courtesy Joel Smith. (www.icedogsphotos.com)

Veni, vidi, vici – the famous Latin phrase for “I came, I saw, I conquered”.

And that’s exactly what 17-year-old OHLer Ryan Strome did after coming to the Niagara IceDogs in a blockbuster deal with the Barrie Colts involving the now St. Louis Blues defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo.

At the time, current IceDogs general manager and head coach Marty Williamson was with Barrie, while Dave Brown, who is now Assistant Manager of Hockey Operations with the Erie Otters, managed the Niagara club.

Brown sent Alex Pietrangelo, Chris DeSousa and goaltender Petteri Simila to the Colts while Williamson gave up Danish defenseman Simon Gronvaldt, two second round picks, a third round pick, a ninth round pick, and Ryan Strome – who is now ranked to go 19th overall among North American Skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.

Williamson was trying to build a championship team in Barrie, giving up picks and some young talent for a major impact player and two favours.

Little did he know, the very next season, he would accept a position with the Niagara IceDogs and be back behind the bench, coaching Strome in his sophomore season.

“Marty is a great coach; I was already comfortable with him so it was easy for me to feel comfortable playing his systems,” Strome commented. “He knows how to win games and build a solid team, and he’s really made an impact so far.”

Strome quickly got back into the routine of Williamson’s ways, and since the spring training camp, he has consistently been one of the OHL’s hottest players, not to mention one of the most highly touted NHL prospects.

Along with fellow IceDogs teammate Dougie Hamilton, Strome is projected to go in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry draft (19th NHL CS, 6th by TSN’s Bob MacKenzie).

That’s quite the achievement for the 6.1’’, 185-pounder, but the ranking didn’t come without hard work and determination.

“I put in a big summer, I wanted to improve on a lot of things during the off season and I dedicated everything I could to this season,” said Strome. “I think I showed spurts of potential last year, but I really wanted to prove to all the scouts, to Team Canada (U18) that I didn’t get selected for last season, and also to my teammates and the fans that I was worth the value in the (Alex Pietrangelo) trade.

“If I keep playing the way I am I think its working out for Niagara, and with all the boys playing so well together I definitely think we have a bright future ahead of us.”

After gaining over 20 pounds during the summer and improving his skating immensely, Strome started the 2010-11 season leading the league in points, and currently sits second in the OHL with 26 goals, 56 assists, 82 points, a +23 rating and 62 penalty minutes in 50 games.

Ryan Strome scoring a shootout goal against the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. Photo Courtesy Joel Smith

“I was at the rink a few times a week working on my skating, and I really worked on my shot and goal scoring abilities over the summer,” he explained. “Really I just worked on everything I needed to – speed, strength, I put on some weight, so I feel like I’ve worked everything and I’m ready to go.”

Not only is he tied for second in OHL assists (56) with Shane Prince, but the kid has a wicked set of hands on him as well, as seen in the video of his goal against the Plymouth Whalers that made just about every Top 10 list on TV, while also going viral on YouTube with over 300,000 views. (Ryan Strome Highlight Reel Goal vs. Plymouth Whalers)

“It felt pretty good after it sank in, I didn’t really realize the goal was that nice until the guys told me after the game, but I was happier the team got the win,” he commented. “But when it comes down to it, it was just another goal, and I’ve just got to focus on doing my thing and keeping them coming.”

Coupled with his keen offensive prowess, Strome also has a ton of heart, which shows in his well-balanced play – both in the physical and defensive sides of the game.

Ed Burkholder, former Detroit Redwings scout and current head scout and director of player personnel of the East Coast Hockey League’s Toledo Walleye, also does color commentating for TVCogeco’s The OHL Tonight, allowing him to get a chance to preview Strome with a thorough eye.

“Ryan is a dynamic, offensive hockey player with a strong commitment to the defensive side of the game,” said Burkholder. “He has tremendous vision which enables him to excel at moving the puck and continue to be a dangerous player around the net.”

Like Bob MacKenzie, Burkholder sees Strome to be a much higher pick than 19th overall.

“His quick, accurate release fools goaltenders and his will to win is endless,” he notes. “He completes every shift, and I feel that Ryan belongs in the Top 5 overall picks in this summer’s NHL Enrty Draft.”

Strome compares his style as a mix between the Chicago BlackhawksPatrick Kane and San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton. While he has Thornton’s vision and passing ability, he also has the agility, speed and hands of Kane.

Before making his debut in the OHL, Strome racked up 41 goals and 63 assists in 76 games with Toronto Marlboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, which led to the team capturing a GTHL minor midget AAA title in 2008. It was his seventh consecutive league championship.

Niagara IceDogs forward Ryan Strome in action at the Gatorade Garden City Complex in St. Catharines (Niagara) Ont. Photo Courtesy Joel Smith.

Recently, on February 4, 2011, it was announced that Strome was named the OHL Player of the Month for January, after leading the league in points for the month with four goals and a remarkable 22 assists for 26 points in only 13 games.

His 22 assists alone equaled the point total of the OHL’s second leading scorer in the month of January. He recorded points in 11 of his 13 games played with 10 multi-point performances leading the IceDogs to a 9-2-0-2 record in that span.

The Mississauga native has seen his stock sky rocket this season, which earned him a roster spot at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game held in Toronto on the 18th and 19th of January, as he suited up for Team Cherry.

Before recording just one assist in the IceDogs most recent 2-0 victory over the Brampton Battalion, Strome went four straight games picking up three points per game (1G, 2A vs. SSM; 3A vs. Saginaw; 3A vs. Plymouth; 1G, 2A vs. London).

Keep your eyes on Strome to continue to be in the spotlight come draft season.

Jeff Blay
Journalism grad from St. Catharines, ON, Canada. Newfoundland heritage. Passionate about hockey whether it's junior or pro. News junkie and literature fanatic. Sun Media Reporter, The Hockey News intern, former Media Relations with the Ontario Hockey League's (OHL) Niagara IceDogs, contribute to an OHL radio show called In the O Radio (www.intheoradio.com), and write prospect features for Andy Strickland's TrueHockey.com. Follow @JeffBlay on Twitter.

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