Since joining the Chicago Blackhawks in November, Dylan Strome has been one to watch. He’s tallied a total of 13 goals and 24 assists in his 39 games since putting on a Blackhawks sweater, making him one of their top forwards. Many are asking what his future holds, especially since he gels so well with Alex DeBrincat. Only time will tell but it doesn’t hurt to speculate.
Strome’s Junior Career
Strome thrived in his OHL career with the Erie Otters, and it’s often speculated that it’s due to being paired with Connor McDavid. Strome’s numbers soared when McDavid was around, but he wasn’t the only one who helped boost him up. There was also the Blackhawks’ DeBrincat.
Strome was excited when he got the call that he and DeBrincat would be teammates again, as he told the Daily Herald, “He’s one of my best friends, so it’s nice to see him again (and) see a familiar face around the rink. We had a lot of chemistry back in junior — a lot of good times,” (from ‘Blackhawks’ DeBrincat reunited with old pal Strome’, Daily Herald – 11/27/18).
When they played on the same line together in the 2014-15 season and 2015-16 season, the pair combined for a total of 184 goals and 261 assists. Luckily, their chemistry has translated to the NHL, as Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton told the Chicago Sun-Times, “They definitely have an understanding out there and feel comfortable together,” Colliton said. “They’ve been able to give us a lot offensively almost every single game. It’s nice, when you build a lineup, to have that combo,” (from ‘Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Patrick Kane have makings to be effective line’, Chicago Sun-Times – 12/19/18).
NHL Draft Bust
Strome’s strong numbers led him to be drafted third overall (behind McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Arizona Coyotes but he failed to live up to sky-high expectations. He played a total of 48 games in a Coyotes sweater and tallied a total of seven goals and nine assists. He only played seven games in the 2016-17 season before returning to the OHL and only played 21 games in the 2017-18 season before being sent down to the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners.
He was quick to argue that he wasn’t a bust before the 2018-19 season, as he told TSN, “To say someone has had a bad career or whatever when they haven’t played even a full season, I don’t know. You’ve just got to keep learning and keep getting better every day. Sometimes a new opportunity arises, and you’ve just got to run with it. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
He didn’t get a chance to prove his critics wrong in a Coyotes sweater, but his luck turned when he was traded to the Blackhawks in November.
Strome a Rising Star
From the second he arrived on Chicago soil, Strome was the talk of the town. He was quickly placed on the same line as former teammate DeBrincat and superstar Patrick Kane. His larger stature was expected to help the two smaller yet speedy forwards.
According to NBC Sports Chicago: “I heard that might be part of his game,” said Colliton of the 6-foot-3, 211-pound Strome. “That needs to be part of his game because we have to have someone there. We can’t have three guys on the perimeter all the time, or we’ll never score, or we’ll only score this one type of goal. You have to score every type of goal, different kinds of goals, and so that’s important.”
The trio quickly became one of the Blackhawks’ strongest lines. Strome’s chemistry with DeBrincat was quickly renewed, and he began playing better than he ever has in his NHL career.
Strome spoke of his newfound confidence after becoming a Blackhawk in November to the Chicago Sun-Times: “I’m getting more comfortable, and I know I’m gonna be in the lineup. When I make a mistake, I know I’m not gonna be in the crowd the next game. I can figure it out on my next shift or the next couple of shifts after that and make up for it. That makes it easier on your mind and makes your play a little bit better,” (from ‘Emerging center Dylan Strome looks like major trade win for Blackhawks’, Chicago Sun-Times – 2/23/18).
Not all of his success is credited to his linemates, as he was named the NHL’s third star of the week on Feb. 11 after back-to-back three-point games.
Strome has proven himself to be a strong player in a short period of time. He’s finally exceeding the expectations put on him when he was drafted, which means he’s going to be worth more than the average NHL player in the future. His entry-level contract with a cap hit of $863,333 expires at the end of the 2019-20 season, the same time as DeBrincat’s.
Keeping them both long-term won’t be easy salary-cap wise if they keep performing the way they are, but they have proven to be a reliable duo. If they keep playing this well, it would be a smart move for the Blackhawks’ to keep them.
Stats obtained from NHL.com and hockeydb.com