NHL Draft picks, even those taken in the first round, often have to wait a while to get their shot. For the fifth overall pick in 2011, forward Ryan Strome, the dream is getting closer and closer.
“Obviously you’ve been skating all summer, but the intensity really picks up now,” Strome said after his first on-ice session at Islanders Rookie Camp. “You’re trying to prepare for Camp and the season, and this is the best way to do it.”
The 20-year-old spent four seasons of junior hockey in the OHL, mostly with the Niagara Ice Dogs. His most productive offensive season came in 2010-11, in which he scored 106 points (33 goals, 73 assists) in 65 games. Strome’s impressive year was rewarded with a high selection by the Islanders, though the organization elected to keep him with Niagara to continue his development.
“Obviously, you never want to get set down from anywhere and always want to play at the highest level,” he said. “But it’s about a 15-year career, not a one or two-year career. It’s better to climb the ladder slowly and stay there than get to the top quick and fall off.”
Following the 2011 Draft, Strome stayed with Niagara through the 2012-13 season. In his final three years of juniors, Strome scored a combined 268 points (97 goals, 171 assists). After the Ice Dogs’ season ended in 2012-13, he quickly jumped into the fray with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, scoring seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 American Hockey League games.
“That was huge to know what that’s like, coming to the rink every day as a pro and putting your time in,” Strome said. “It was good to play with guys who are hopefully going to be a part of this organization for a long time and gain that chemistry. I’d say that was one of the biggest things to help my development in the past few years.”
Strome wasted no time making an impact in Bridgeport, scoring a goal and an assist in his first game as a pro, a 4-2 Sound Tigers win on April 2.
“It was really nice to get the monkey off my back early,” he said. “It definitely made the transition easier. The guys are always going to respect you a little bit more when you’re putting up numbers to help out the team.”
During the offseason, Strome spent the summer training with someone with whom he shares a lot in common, John Tavares. The two were both recent top picks of the Islanders (Tavares was the No. 1 overall pick in 2009) and also hail from the same town, Mississauga, Ont.
“He’s really someone that I strive to be like and to work as hard as he does,” Strome said. “It was great to be able to be with him every day and learn some things off the ice as well as keep up with him. You just try to soak up everything you can.”
The two had worked together a bit over the past few offseasons, but this summer it became more of a one-on-one study session.
“You can never learn too much from a guy like that,” Strome continued, “especially someone who has accomplished so much at such a young age.”
Now in his third Rookie Camp with the Islanders and preparing for his first full season as a professional, Strome is getting more and more comfortable as a member of the organization. He understands nothing is guaranteed, however, and won’t let his status as a top draft pick allow him to feel complacent.
“I’m just going to go out and do my best every time out there,” Strome said. “I’ll work hard and when the time comes [to talk about the upcoming season], we will.”