If Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matthew Strome somehow makes the roster out of camp this fall, it will come as a pleasant surprise to the team and the fans. Strome fell to the fourth round, 106th overall, in the NHL Draft this past June after many believed he would be a first or second-round prospect. Yet, Strome does possess great size and compete level for his age and has the vision and finishing ability to have an outside shot at a bottom-six winger slot for Philly. However, if Strome is simply returned to the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs for another year, maybe two, no one will be upset. There are no expectations for the youngest Strome at this point in time.
The same cannot be said for his older brothers. New Edmonton Oiler Ryan Strome and Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome face some serious stakes in 2017-18. Both are still young at 24 and 20 respectively, but neither has lived up to expectations thus far. With each facing the daunting task of playing a key offensive role for their teams this season, the time is now to show that they have what it takes.
In many ways, the Oilers’ recent trade of Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome was a salary cap dump. Eberle was set to make $6MM this year and next, while Strome will be paid just $2.5MM this season. Eberle is also twice the player that Strome is, both subjectively in the minds of most hockey pundits and objectively given the pairs scoring stats in each of the past two seasons. The fact of the matter is that the Oilers were facing a cap crunch with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in need of super-expensive long-term extensions and with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, and their top-four defenseman all already signed to big-money deals. Someone had to go and the choice was Eberle. However, Edmonton has now lost the only player that has been a consistent scorer for them through many dark years and a crucial member of the top six. Strome may not hold up in comparison, but it is no secret that he is expected to contribute this season and vastly improve from his numbers with the Islanders. After a 50-point campaign and +23 rating in his first full pro season in 2014-15, many thought Strome was on his way to stardom. Two years later, he’s scored just 58 points over two seasons and is a -17 in that span. Strome hit a wall in New York and looked lost in the Isles’ lineup. Edmonton presents a brand new opportunity for him to show that his 5th overall pick status in 2011 and early NHL returns were no fluke. While Strome is a natural center, the Oilers are sorely lacking a right-shot offensive threat in the top six with Eberle gone. Rather than bury Strome on the third line, it seems very likely that he could instead move from center to right wing, where he spent some time in New York, and skate alongside the likes of McDavid, Draisaitl, or Nugent-Hopkins next season. With that role will come the pressure to produce alongside such high-quality players. Strome must improve on his 30 points from 2016-17 and has to become a better even strength player. If he doesn’t, the Oilers may regret this deal as they struggle to find secondary scoring and Strome’s future may be in doubt this time next year as he faces restricted free agency.
Dylan Strome has always been property of the Arizona Coyotes, but playing with the team this season may feel like new scenario. The former Erie Otters superstar has played in just seven NHL games since being drafted third overall in 2015 and has just one assist to show for it. Once considered the Coyotes #1 center of the future, Strome will enter the mix this year as somewhat of an afterthought. The team went out and acquired Derek Stepan from the New York Rangers, who should be the team’s top center and offensive leader for the time being. There is also Calder speculation surrounding young center Clayton Keller who, despite being drafted a year after and four spots later than Strome, has seemingly passed him up on the organizational depth chart. With promising young players like Max Domi, Anthony Duclair Brendan Perlini, Christian Fischer, Christian Dvorak, Lawson Crouse, and Nick Merkley also in the mix, not to mention solid veterans like Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder, and Jamie McGinn, it may be hard for Strome to find a top-nine role, nevertheless be a featured forward. Yet, the rebuild in Arizona cannot last forever and “promise” will only hold up for so long on a Coyotes team that should be taking the next step soon. If the ’Yotes don’t improve in 2017-18 and Strome’s rookie season is underwhelming, many may point to his lack of development as the reason why the rebuild has shown few results. While it is asking a lot to compare Strome to the two picks ahead of him in 2015 – Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – the early success of those after him, like Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Pavel Zacha, Travis Konecny, Anthony Beauvillier, Sebastian Aho, and more, is likely already frustrating both Arizona fans and executives. Another season without results could be disastrous for his tenure in the desert. The pressure is officially on.
If Ryan and Dylan Strome live up to their draft hype and ample ability this year, the Strome family could be the talk of the hockey town in 2017-18. However, if neither can take advantage of their opportunities this year, there could be some serious doubt cast upon the career prospects of both. Then again, at least there’s always Matthew to watch for.