With 6 goals and 13 assists through the first 27 games of the season, Ryan Strome’s 19 points put him 45th in the league in scoring. It also puts Strome fourth in scoring on an Islanders team that, if the season ended today, would host a first round playoff series.
Of the 2011 draft class which Strome was a part of, only the breakout Tampa Bay star Nikita Kucherov is having a better offensive season. Strome was the fifth overall pick, behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Adam Larsson, and is outperforming each of the players ahead of him. He’s already surpassed his points total from last season in 10 less games, and is on pace to post 58 points in an 82 game season.
All of Strome’s 6 goals this season have come at even strength. Last season he notched 7, with 4 of them coming on the power play. One of the knocks on Strome’s game early in his career was his lack of strength and inability to create space for himself in the offensive zone, so his comfort on the power play was no surprise. This season, Strome has acted as a setup man on the power play while finding a way to score goals at even strength. Like this one against Tampa Bay, most of the goals aren’t the prettiest, but a goal is a goal. The fact that he finds a way to put home these opportunities is one of the most important signs of maturity in a young player who isn’t known for his shot. Strome has matured to a point where he’s throwing pucks at the net instead of trying to force plays when nothing is available, and as a 21 year old with under 40 games of NHL experience leading up to this season that’s an impressive feat.
Looking back at the 3-2 overtime victory over Washington a few weeks ago, Strome was a dominant player in the game with two assists including the primary helper on Tavares’ game-winner. But this is another one that supports the point of Strome’s maturity really showing. Capuano is a north-south style coach who preaches getting pucks to the net and working hard. Strome forechecks to create a turnover, steers a puck towards the net and creates a goal. Though these aren’t the flashy plays those of us who watched Strome in Niagara are accustomed to, they’re the effective and necessary plays that a young forward needs to develop to excel at the NHL level. Strome is now there.
Among the most impressive stats on Strome’s resume: No Islander starts more of his shifts in the defensive zone than the fourth leading scorer on the team. At 37.5%, Strome is being relied upon as a forward who can play solid defense and turn defensive zone play into offensive opportunities. This isn’t a young offensive player being sheltered with offensive zone starts against low-quality competition, it’s a player that Capuano sees as a top forward now. Ryan Strome’s development is right on track.
(Defensive zone stats courtesy Puckalytics.com)