Entering training camp this season, every media personality was pumping up Ryan Strome coming to the Oilers organization, while on the flip side Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ value was questioned. Funny how things change: a couple of months later we’re sitting here panicking about Strome and praising Nuge for his play thus far.
In the dog house
Ryan Strome was officially introduced to the media at the Oilers Hockey Hockey School in early August. He said he was excited to join the club, and praised the Oilers for being close to a championship team. The summer progressed with everyone wondering where exactly he would line up, a natural centre Strome mostly played right wing during his time in New York.
Coming into camp there were no surprises, McLellan hinted that Strome might play on the wing alongside McDavid and Maroon even though he’s a natural centre. Strome had put up 50 points (17G, 33A) during the 2014-15 season, there were high hopes he could find his scoring touch alongside the most dynamic player in the league. However, that experiment didn’t last long. A few games into the preseason and Strome found himself not producing like the Oilers hoped he would.
McLellan juggled his lines and Strome found himself pivoting fellow players in the coaches dog house, Caggiula, and Jokinen. Through 14 games he has five points (2G, 3A) and carries a minus four rating, including a multi-point game against the Hurricanes on October 17th. While it’s fun to make comparisons between Strome’s season and Eberle’s just remember that Ebs has been given a lot more freedom in New York as opposed to Strome in Edmonton.
Towards the end of October, Nick Kypreos decided to throw a steak at the hungry wolves in Edmonton by reporting that the Oilers were not happy with the Strome deal. The fans and media alike were already on edge about the disappointing start, this just added more fuel to the fire. I can’t even imagine how Strome felt reading that.
Most logical thinkers felt that Strome wouldn’t rack up points, even if Connor McDavid was telling people that he would be a fantasy sleeper. I don’t think it was fair to Strome to be demoted to the third line right away, he was only given a handful of games, not even meaningful season games on the top line with Connor. It’s still very early in the season, Strome has lots to prove in a contract year, maybe he’ll figure things out.
The Nuge is yuge!
The lone standing survivor from the Oilers former core has impressed, the former first overall pick has held his own so far. Last season Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took on more of a two-way game than we’ve seen from him before; it was great to see him be smart in both ends and backcheck like there was no tomorrow, but it seemed like McLellan never rewarded him for it.
Heading into this season, Nuge seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle of things; he opened camp on the third line alongside big Finns Jokinen and Puljujarvi. This line was unique, instead of looking for a checking role the Oilers wanted to have a scoring threat. It seemed like a great fit for Nuge because Jokinen is responsible in his end and could do some babysitting if Ryan decided to sneak up. I felt like Nuge should’ve been given a chance to play on the wing of either the first or second line, less responsibility more offence.
As we’re all aware things didn’t go as planned and the lines were thrown into a blender, Nugent-Hopkins found himself on the second line with Lucic. With Leon filling the right wing hole on the first line, there has been an open spot alongside Nuge and Lucic. It sometimes feels like an open mic night when giving guys the chance to play there, some nights it’s a standing ovation, others it’s like the comic got booed off the stage.
While the second line doesn’t offer the offensive pop that the first unit does, it’s hard to ignore how well Nuge has played thus far. His faceoff percentage is up at 54 percent, in 14 appearances he has nine points (6G, 3A), and is a plus-minus of even on the season.
Both of these guys were predicted to have two completely different seasons, it just seems as though they were mixed up on reporting the last names. Did you think that the Nuge was going to carry his own? Did you think that Strome would flounder this badly? While I think we can say that we thought that Nuge could have this kind of year, I don’t think it’s exactly fair to throw Strome under the bus. Look at who he has been paired with and where he has been played. If you want him to have a 50 point campaign you need to have him beside McDavid, he didn’t have that season playing with Clutterbuck or Chimera, he was with Tavares. What are your thoughts on the two Ryans? Let me know below!