Just last season, Ryan Strome, who was with the Edmonton Oilers, was desperately trying to stick around in the NHL. Now, he is having the best season of his career and centering a line with Artemi Panarin for the New York Rangers.
Beginnings and Struggles
Strome was selected at No. 5 overall in the 2011 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders. His career got off to a promising start, when he had 17 goals and 33 assists in 2014-15, his first full NHL season. Despite the strong season, he produced just 58 points over his next two seasons and was then traded to the Oilers.
Strome struggled with Edmonton which put his future as an NHL player in jeopardy. He had 13 goals and 21 assists in 2017-18 but got off to an awful start the following season – he had just one goal and one assist in his first 18 games and struggled to stay in the lineup.
In New York, Ryan Spooner was off to a similar start in the 2018-19 season with the Rangers. The Oilers and Rangers agreed to swap Spooner for Strome. While Spooner continued to struggle and is now out of the NHL, Strome has turned his career around.
Strome’s 2018-19 Season with the Rangers
The Rangers lacked depth at center, with the exception of Mika Zibanejad. That left an opening for Strome and right away the coaches took a leap of faith and gave him more playing time than he had in Edmonton. That faith paid off, as he became a penalty-killing center, and he started to produce more offensively. He had two goals and four assists in his first 11 games with the Blueshirts.
He outplayed Vladislav Namestnikov, Brett Howden and Filip Chytil. Coach David Quinn made him the Rangers’ second-line center as Strome proved he was willing to block shots and stand up for teammates.
For a while, he slumped offensively but broke out of it late in the season. He had 12 goals and 10 assists in the last 28 games of the season and even started getting playing time on the power play. Overall, he scored 18 goals and had 15 assists, while averaging 15:54 in time on ice per game in 63 games after being traded to the Rangers.
Strome’s 2019-20 Season with the Rangers
The Blueshirts made many notable moves in their last offseason; their biggest one was signing Panarin. That gave the team two star forwards but the Rangers still didn’t have much depth with their forwards so Quinn decided to split up Panarin and Zibanejad early in the season. This led to Strome centering a line with Panarin and Jesper Fast as his wingers.
Panarin has a knack for making everyone around him better and that has certainly been the case with Strome. Their line immediately formed chemistry and the defensive play and grit of Strome and Fast has allowed Panarin to be aggressive offensively.
Strome started producing more on the line with Panarin and as he scored more, his confidence has grown. He has become much more decisive in the offensive zone. He has developed into a key player for the Rangers and has had success on the power play and penalty kill, in addition to his strong play at even strength. He has done a little bit of everything. He can play a gritty style but he also has enough skill to be an effective offensive player.
Related: All-Decade NHL Draft – 2010 to 2019
He already has a career-high in points this season with 59, including 18 goals, in 70 games. He has averaged 19:35 in ice time per game. He is also plus-21, which is the third-best of anyone on the team, after Panarin and Adam Fox. If the season resumes, he has a chance to score 20 goals for the first time in his career.
Strome is set to become a restricted free agent after this season. The Rangers will have the opportunity to sign him to a long-term deal but will likely opt to sign him for a one or two-year deal instead. This could result in him becoming an unrestricted free agent in a year or two.
The contracts of Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal and Brendan Smith will all expire after the 2020-21 season, so the Rangers will have much more cap space then. Strome has all the qualities of a player the team would like to re-sign, but if they allow him to become an unrestricted free agent he may sign elsewhere.
Either way, Strome has revived his career and has now set himself up for a big contract.