Drafted by the New York Islanders with the fifth overall pick in 2011, Sound Tigers forward Ryan Strome was not fast-tracked to the NHL like many others selected in that draft. In fact, of the players drafted in the Top 10 that year, Strome is the only one who has yet to appear in an NHL game. It isn’t due to lack of talent--the 20-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native had 295 points in 225 OHL games from 2009-2013--but rather a concerted effort to allow Strome to develop into a complete player on and off the ice.
“I’ve really been looking forward to my first full pro year,” Strome said. “I’ve worked on some things on the ice since I’ve been in juniors, and now I’m enjoying living alone and being more independent, too.”
There’s not a hint of frustration evident in Strome, who understands the hard work and dedication it takes to get to the highest level. The patience that he’s shown off the ice translates into his playmaking ability on it. He was third in the OHL with 73 assists in 2010-11 and racked up 190 over his junior hockey career. Still, he knows that there are always ways any player can help his game.
“I just need to work on the little things,” Strome said. “When I got sent down they gave me a couple things to improve on and it’s just a matter of continuing to harp on that. I need to continue to stay in shape and be ready to play big minutes. I don’t think there are too many things I need to change that are real big parts of my game, but just little details and things that separate the NHL guys from the AHL guys.”
After making his American Hockey League debut last season with five points in 10 games, Strome’s first full pro season began with three assists in the first two games. He recorded the primary assist on the first Sound Tigers goal of the season on Oct. 5 before adding two helpers and a shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Norfolk Admirals the next day.
Last weekend, however, the Sound Tigers struggled to put the puck in the back of the net. Though they recorded a combined 59 shots on goal in two games, they scored just once. Strome had six of those shots, but was held off of the scoresheet in both contests.
“I think I’ve got my chances and you have to look at that,” Strome said. “I had a lot of shots on net and that’s what I’m trying to do. As a guy who’s supposed to put up big points, you’ve just got to worry about getting pucks to the net and the goals will come eventually. At the same time, though, if you’re not scoring you’ve got to find other ways to help out your team. That’s one of the things I’ve learned and it’s one of the things I’m continuing to work on.”
The power play gave the Sound Tigers some trouble over the weekend, as well. Though they had 17 man-advantage opportunities in their two games, they were unable to convert on any of them. Strome, who logs time on both special teams units, knows it’s just a matter of time before the bad fortune turns around.
“I think we’ve had some good chances,” Strome said. “It just comes down to execution. I think we’ve got to get back to the drawing board a bit and keep things simple. Last game, we started bearing down and getting pucks to the net. I thought we were a lot better in the second and third period [Sunday] than we were in the first period or the game before. Obviously, it’s a tough league to score in but you’ve got to keep it simple and not complicate things, and we’ll be fine.”
The Sound Tigers return to action Sunday afternoon with a 3 p.m. contest against the Binghamton Senators at Webster Bank Arena.