Ryan Strome was first traded when he was just sixteen years old. On January 8th, 2010 in his rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League, he was dealt from the Barrie Colts to the Niagara Ice Dogs. The Colts were loading up for a playoff run. They moved Strome, Simon Gronvaldt, two second round picks, a third rounder and a ninth rounder to Niagara for Alex Pietrangelo, Chris DeSousa and Petteri Simila. Pietrangelo and Strome were the main pieces in the deal. Strome was a highly touted youngster, while Pietrangelo has played nine games with the St.Louis Blues between October and November and had just returned from the World Junior Championships. De Sousa was traded immediately from Barrie to London for Zac Rinaldo. Simila never played a game for the Colts. Gronvaldt was a steady defensive D-man for Niagara.
The Colts lost in the OHL final in 2010, Pietrangelo starred with the Blues the following season while Strome became a star in the OHL. Strome tallied eight goals and 27 points split between Barrie and Niagara as a rookie, but he exploded with 33 goals and 106 points in 66 games during his draft year and was selected fifth overall by the New York Islanders at the 2011 NHL draft on June 24th.
Six years later, almost to the day, Strome was traded for the second time in his career. On June 22nd the Islanders moved him to the Edmonton Oilers for Jordan Eberle. Once again he was traded for a more established veteran, but Strome is excited and confident he can become a solid contributor in Edmonton.
Strome was in Edmonton last week to look for a house and get comfortable in the city, and he made an appearance at the Oilers hockey school in St.Albert. I, along with a few other members of the media caught up with him before he took to the ice.
Strome was visibly excited about the trade and playing in Edmonton.
“It makes me speechless. Honestly. I’m walking around, and I feel like this isn’t even real life. Just looking at how nice the facility is. I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s a privilege and we’re spoiled to play in the NHL, but that takes it to a new level, so it’s pretty cool,” smiled Strome when discussing his new home arena.
“There is a lot more to the city than I thought,” said Strome. “It was nice to see some different areas and find out where we are going to live. You see the buzz around the team in August. It is pretty special being a Canadian boy, it is nice to have that Canadian hockey feel again. I’m excited to come to a team that I think is close to winning. I was watching the playoffs up until two in the morning with my buddies watching them (Oilers) and thinking they were quite the team. It is humbling to be part of it and I’m excited anticipating the season,” he continued.
The vibe this off-season in Edmonton and all of Northern Alberta is much different than previous years when it pertains to the Oilers. Fans are no longer angry and frustrated. Their team is finally good again and the chatter on the street, around water coolers and on sports talk radio hasn’t focused on whether the Oilers will make the playoffs, but instead how deep into the postseason they can go.
Strome arrived at the perfect time. It is much easier being a player in Edmonton when the team is competitive instead of dwelling in the cellar. But that also means there will be heightened expectations and pressure.
“I was definitely under scrutiny in New York, so I’m used to it a bit. I grew up in Toronto and followed the Leafs for many years. I’ve seen the craziness. Even living in Toronto in the summer, we have our summer skates and there are people packed in the arena. I know what that atmosphere is like. It is exciting and winning makes everyone happy. That is what we are looking to do here. I’m just looking to put my best foot forward,” Strome said.
In his first full NHL season Strome scored 17 goals and 50 points. The Islanders, Strome and the fans were expecting him to continue to produce like that, but over the past two seasons he hasn’t come close to repeating those stats.
He scored 8-20-28 in 2016 and last year he had 13-17-30 in 69 games. He is capable of scoring more and I asked him what he needs to do in Edmonton to rediscover his scoring touch.
“I think just to get the confidence going early and ride the wave will be important. With so many ups and downs in my career I think I’ve learned how to deal with adversity pretty well. I’ve had a lot thrown at me and gone through some stuff. I think knowing the league is a big factor too. I don’t feel like a rookie any more. It is funny how time flies and a new opportunity with people who are excited to have you…it is nothing but optimism for me,” Strome replied.
The mental side is huge and Strome says the trade has given him a boost.
“For sure. It is hard not to get excited every day. We have such a lucky job playing in the NHL that no matter where you are it is great, but I do have an extra jump in my step now. When I had to tell people I play for the Edmonton Oilers it was a different feeling and a lot of excitement. I feel like a little bit of a kid again getting my new gear at Christmas. That is what I felt like. I was going to the rink with my new Oilers gear. It was pretty awesome. Little things like that get you excited and coming to a team I think is so close to winning is even more exciting,” Strome said with a smile.
The one noticeable difference from Strome’s answers to previous players who signed here or were traded to Edmonton was obvious. You rarely heard they were close to winning. Strome mentioned it numerous times and often without being asked directly about it.
When asked why he is so confident, he responded, “Believe it or not, much of it came from talking to guys who played Edmonton in the playoffs. I’m not going to say names, but they mentioned how impressed they were. And then add in my own opinion watching them in the playoffs and seeing how many great players they have like Connor and Leon and guys like that. It is exciting to be a part of that.”
The players around the NHL know which players are good, but more importantly which teams are legit. They didn’t just mention McDavid, nor did Strome. Obviously, he is a main piece of the puzzle, but the Oilers are no longer looked at as the free space on the bingo card. They have talent. They have skilled size and they are no longer a disaster in their own zone.
Strome was noticeably thrilled about his new destination and was overwhelmed by the response of his new teammates.
“A bunch of guys reached out. I was actually pretty excited. It was nice to see so many guys text and reach out. Pretty much everyone just pointed out the positives: Great arena, great fans, obviously a great team, and a great coaching staff. You can’t ask for much more than that. It was nice to see that much support from the guys,” said Strome.
STYLE OF PLAY
I haven’t watched Strome a lot the past few seasons. I sense most in Oilersnation haven’t either, so I asked Strome to describe his style of play.
“I’m a smart forward. I try to anticipate where the puck is going to go. I’m not the biggest or fastest guy, but I’m pretty gritty I like to think. I’m not afraid to stir it up a little bit, and try to get under guys skin. I’m just a well-rounded player. I like to score and put up points, but I’ve definitely learned more about my defensive game in New York. That was preached a lot. I can do a little bit of everything and I think I can slot into a lot of different areas,” he said.
Will it be easier to get under player’s skin knowing you have guys on the ice like Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian and Darnell Nurse?
“I don’t think I’m an agitator by any sense of the word (laughs), but I think that’s a big part of the game that goes undervalued. In New York last year, we lost Matt Martin, and we definitely felt a little bit of a difference. When you play a tough team, you have to answer the bell, and you have to look over your shoulder a little more. Those guys obviously have a big presence, and not to mention they can put the puck in the net. We have a great combination on this team of grit and skill. I just want to fit in where I can, and be a part of it all,” said Strome.
Interesting how he brought up Martin. Some scoffed at the Toronto Maple Leafs signing Martin, but the young skilled players in Toronto loved having him around. Never underestimate how important feeling comfortable and confident can be. A tough, rugged player won’t stop opposing players from being physical, but their presence can grow the confidence of teammates and that is incredibly valuable.
I believe Strome will start training camp on the wing, and I won’t be surprised if he skates with McDavid. What are his strengths as a winger?
“I think I’ve actually done a much better job the last couple years just learning to make little plays with my centreman. Being a centreman growing up, you don’t appreciate how much your wingers do. Those little wall battles, getting the puck in good areas for centreman as well as being able to take a risk here and there. Versatility is a good thing and I feel comfortable on the wing and at centre,” Strome said.
Getting the puck to McDavid in good areas so he can use his incredible speed will make any wingers job easier, but McDavid loves to pass and Strome has been working a lot more on his shot this summer.
“It’s funny, you learn so much in your career, and one thing I need to do is shoot the puck more. I keep bringing up how much guys distribute the puck here; it’s going to be a little different. I’m looking forward to that opportunity and becoming a more well-rounded forward and well-rounded player. From what I’ve heard from my new teammates, the coaches here like to preach offence and like to teach it. That’s something a little different than what I’ve had in the past, and something I’m excited about,” said Strome.
Strome worked a lot on his defensive play, and he feels he’s much better in that area, but he is an offensive-minded player and is hoping to produce more with the Oilers. He is eager to get started and his initial conversation with head coach Todd McLellan was encouraging for him.
“One of the main things I talked with Todd about was versatility. Last year I remember watching the playoffs and their lines were switching nonstop. Guys were playing wing, guys were playing centre. It gets guys going and gets you involved in the game, and if you are feeling it that night you get out there more. I noticed his teams in San Jose did the same thing. There is no lack of opportunity here, especially with the way they play,” said Strome.
Strome will have a good opportunity to produce points, whether he plays with McDavid, Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or left wingers like Lucic, Maroon or Caggiula.
After his first trade seven years ago, Strome flourished on his new team and he is motivated to do the same in Edmonton, with a team he is confident has an excellent chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
This week on my show is Analytics Week. Every day between 3-5 p.m. we are discussing varies issues around analytics. On Tuesday we had former NHLer Drake Berehowsky and founder of www.statstrack.ca.
We also spoke with Stockton Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska on. He is a huge proponent of analytics and discussed how he uses it from a coach’s perspective. On Wednesday we heard from Corey Sznajder from TheEnergyLine.com. You can listen to those interviews here.
We also spoke with the author of Hockey Abstract and Stat Shot Rob Vollman. Vollman has spent a lot of time tracking analytics. He had some really good information, and whether you love or loathe analytics you should take a moment and listen to the interview. It will make you think about how you view them regardless of how you view them. Listen Here.
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