Ryan Strome knows the challenge he faces as the Islanders wrap up their rookie camp and prepare for the opening of training camp this Thursday. The Mississauga, Ontario, native has a real chance to make the big club this year if he has a strong training camp.
Strome has been working hard. One of the things he needed to do to reach the NHL was add muscle and mass to his body and he has clearly bulked up since the Islanders selected him with the fifth overall in draft two years ago.
He realizes that he won’t be a finished product right away, but he’s been working hard to get there. “I’m just trying to do the right things on and off the ice and just trying to get better,” Strome said after a session of rookie camp at the Nassau Coliseum this week. “Obviously it’s a process and it’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m just going to keep on working hard and taking advantage of the resources around me and just trying to be better.”
Last season was a big one for Strome. He concluded his junior career with the Niagara IceDogs with a strong campaign. Strome scored 30 goals and accumulated 94 points in just 53 games. Then, he made his pro debut, playing 10 late-season contests for the Isles top affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He showed he could be productive at the AHL level, scoring two goals and seven points for Bridgeport.
Sound Tigers coach Scott Pellerin, who was running the Isles rookie camp, sees improvement from Strome. “You can see a little more development of his confidence and strength, said Pellerin. “Obviously, he has great vision and hockey sense on the ice. You can see that speed and that first step and you can just see that improvement as he’s getting older.”
But will it be good enough to make the big club? It appears the Islanders have an opening for a top-six forward with the departure of Brad Boyes and Strome is certainly one candidate to fill that spot. Other top contenders for the spot include Anders Lee and Brock Nelson who joined Strome on a line at rookie camp this week.
Pellerin thinks the trio worked well together. “They’re very talented,” Pellerin said. “They work hard, they have strong fundamentals. They’re higher ranked guys and they move the puck very well, so they’re a good line.”
Strome knows he still has work to do before he reaches the NHL. “I had a little talk with Jack Capuano at rookie camp,” Strome said. “He mentioned a few habits I should work on. Other than that, it’s just take it day-by-day and see what happens.”
Speaking to the 20-year-old prospect, you can sense the determination he has to realize his dream of playing in the NHL and how seriously he takes this opportunity. “You want to play at the highest level you can. At the end of the day you want to be a better player,” Strome explained. “Your goal is to be a better player, that’s what you push yourself towards, but you also have to worry about getting better, taking care of your body and doing the right things to be a pro and adopt to that lifestyle.”
There is little doubt Strome will make it to the NHL someday. Right now he is doing all he can to ensure that someday comes as quickly as possible.