Last season, I wrote a piece on Dylan Strome’s future with the Chicago Blackhawks. He started the first 20 games of the 2018-19 season with the Arizona Coyotes where he scored three goals and three assists before being traded to the Blackhawks and tallying 17 goals and 34 assists in 58 games.
Strome’s entry-level contract expires at the end of the season and if he is successful, re-signing him should be the Blackhawks’ top priority. He has a lot to prove, and that ends with the big question: will he have another successful season, or just be a one-season wonder?
It’s no secret that Strome was unhappy in a Coyotes sweater. He told NHL.com, “My confidence was low when I was there, no question about that. Sometimes you just lose the confidence, and you don’t have the touch with the puck. I felt like I would go down to the AHL and score four points a game and have a great time and then I’d get up to the NHL, and it was like I couldn’t do anything. It was frustrating when I’d go out there the whole time I was there.”
Strome arrived after he was traded along with Brendan Perlini for Nick Schmaltz and was reunited with his best friend from the OHL’s Erie Otters, Alex DeBrincat. The two proved to be a dynamic duo scoring a combined total of 184 goals and 261 assists after playing on the same line for two seasons. Their off-ice friendship turned into on-ice magic when they were reunited. His numbers exploded and had a career-high season, while DeBrincat managed to top his spectacular rookie season with 41 goals and 35 assists in 82 games.
Strome couldn’t be happier with the result of the trade, as he told NHL.com, “I’ve always wanted to be an impact player. It didn’t work out in Arizona. A lot goes through your mind when things aren’t going well. I tried to stay positive. Then I got a fresh start in Chicago. It’s crazy how things turn out.”
He didn’t only become an impact player. He shattered expectations and quickly became one of the strongest forwards on the Blackhawks, especially with him and DeBrincat being considered one of the most powerful offensive forces in the league. Due to the stark contrast between his numbers from the Coyotes and the Blackhawks, it’s a valid question to wonder if he’ll live up to the hype of last season.
Going into the 2019-20 season, Strome is under pressure and to live up to his breakout season last year. He decided to stay in Chicago for the summer to train with Blackhawks strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman, who helped him develop a strong offseason regimen, as he told the Chicago Sun-Times, “He has all the potential to be able to do exactly what he wants to do, but physically, [he’s] just going through a maturation process and understanding how his body can actually be pushed further and also be able to translate into better speed, better power, better change of direction, better vision.” (from ‘How the Blackhawks’ unique summer training regimen has transformed Dylan Strome’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 7/20/19).
Jonathan Toews had a career-high season after changing up his training regimen last year. If history repeats itself, Strome will come back stronger than ever and have the best season of his career.
Strome himself feels confident going into the 2019-20 season and improving on where he left off last season, as he told NHL.com, “I’m looking forward to it. I think the way things ended off, we were starting to pick up some traction and I think everyone was getting familiar with each other. I think we’re looking forward to next year and hopefully can kind of finish off, starting next season the way we finished off last season.”
The Third Linemate
Blackhawks fans were excited when at the announcement that Andrew Shaw would be returning. He will likely join Strome and DeBrincat’s line when the season begins. He will possibly add plenty of depth and physicality to their the duo’s scoring strengths. Strome is excited about it, as he spoke about Shaw to NBC Sports Chicago, “He’s an easy player to play with. He does all the right things. He goes to the hard areas, stuff that takes guts to do. He goes to the front of the net and works hard, and he’s not afraid to mix it up. I might have to get in there and help him out a few times this year, but he’s fun to play with and has been a big part of this team for a long time.”
Before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens in 2016, Shaw spent five seasons with the Blackhawks and was an integral part to two Stanley Cup victories. An established veteran like Shaw could use his knowledge of the game to help both Strome and DeBrincat have better careers and ultimately help the Blackhawks get back into the playoffs.
What the Future Holds
Strome is set to be a fan favorite this season if he lives up to expectations. His contract is set to expire at the end of the season, and the question of re-signing him will come up. Strome has made it clear that he wants to stay with the Blackhawks, but the salary cap will likely play a huge factor in his future. Strome is worth the investment if he can prove himself, but only time will tell if he will wear a Blackhawks sweater for the remainder of his career.