One-on-One With Ryan Strome
Ryan Strome is an 18-year old out of Mississauga, Ontario that many Islanders fans were unfamiliar with until the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The 6'1, 183 pound center was selected by the New York Islanders with the fifth overall pick, igniting a fan base to a new level of excitement on draft day.
That's because Strome is a gifted center with great vision and superb play-making ability. He also has some of the craziest hands, as evident by his goal that he scored on Islanders goalie prospect, Anders Nilsson in the rookie scrimmage over the summer.
Currently playing for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL, Strome has five goals and four assists in only seven games played since being returned to Junior hockey after spending some time with the Islanders organization. Although he hopes to make the NHL in the near future by working hard to have another impressive year with the Ice Dogs, Strome has recently added another task to add to his ambitious goals for the year. We spoke about this and many other hockey related topics over the phone yesterday afternoon.
You were selected to play for Team OHL in the SUBWAY super-series match-up with Team Russia. What are your thoughts on the upcoming series?
It’s obviously a big opportunity for myself to show the coaches of the World Junior team that I can be one of the top players in the country and contribute to the World Junior team. I played in it last year so I kind of was able to get my feet wet, so I just want to go in there, be comfortable and just play my game and be able to get two wins against the always good Russian team.
So far you have nine points in six games played with the Niagara Ice Dogs this season. Three of those points came as a trio with a hat trick in your first game back to Niagara on the night you returned to the OHL. Islanders fans were very excited to see that you were able to put up numbers so quickly. Was it a matter of comfort with being back with your old team? Or do you feel your time spent with an NHL team helped boost your confidence?
I think it was definitely both. Obviously a lot of the same faces here in Niagara and the same systems and stuff. But definitely practicing with those guys on the pro atmosphere, getting adjusted to the speed and the skill of the guys and the physicality made things a bit easier. I think my time there has helped me out as a player a lot. I feel a lot stronger as a player this year, not just in the offense but mostly in my defense in my two-way game. I’m playing a lot more minutes and I’m playing a lot more different roles and I feel a lot more comfortable out there this year.
The Islanders kept you on the roster at the start of the season but decided not to dress you. Did you know that you wouldn’t be dressing for the few games that you were here? What did the coaching staff and management do with you?
There was obviously a chance I would have played. They had a healthy roster to the start of the year but never was written out as a possibility. They just wanted me to get a taste of mostly what the regular season is like. It is different from the pre-season, obviously. I think they wanted me to make sure that I stuck around a little bit so I was comfortable with that and so that when I come back next year I will have all these experiences under my belt and be able to just go out there and play and just worry about the game.
So it was more of like an observation assignment to see what the games were like?
Yeah, I think they definitely found it beneficial for me to be there. Obviously it would have been nice to play in a game. I think if they could they would have wanted me to play if there was an injury situation, but there wasn’t. I was just thankful for my time there and thankful for how much I learned.
Mitchell Theoret is a teammate of yours for both the Ice Dogs and the Islanders after he was drafted in the 7th round. Did you two engage in some friendly competition during the Islanders’ training camp?
Not really too much. We were just trying to help each other out. He got lots of attention. I was very excited for him to finally get an opportunity. I think if we both keep working hard we definitely have a future with the Islanders. He’s one of my best friends so it’s definitely fun to go through experiences like that with him.
Of the other Islanders prospects that you played with over the summer, who impressed you the most?
A lot of the guys, actually. Nino [Niederreiter] is obviously very skilled. He stuck around the NHL for a little bit so he’s got the skill set and he knows what it’s all about. Me and him bonded a lot, being the young guys there for quite a little while. He definitely is one of the guys that stood out for me being a great player and even a nicer guy off the ice.
You went from 13 points in 2010 to 106 in 2011. What changed in your play to cause such a dramatic improvement?
I think that my hard work in the off-season and I came back a lot more comfortable with the league; I did really have much more learning to do. I mean I had a good year my first year. I got a chance in the league and got to play for two teams and see what it’s like to play in all the arenas and I think in my second year I came back almost twenty pounds heavier and a lot more comfortable and it made me just take off and I got a great opportunity to play and show it and I did that.
Many envision you as someone who can do a lot of damage on John Tavares’ wing. Although you are a natural center, what are your thoughts on potentially playing with him down the line?
That obviously would be great. I know John quite well. I think it would be pretty amazing, such a skilled player he is but at the same time it’s out of my hands and if they decide to play me at the wing one day with him, that’s great. I would take it in stride and adapt as best I could but my goal is just to make the Islanders and anyone that John plays with is going to make you a good player and if I get that opportunity, that would be great.
Matt Moulson appears to be the glue of this hockey team, having known Tavares before they both joined the Islanders. From what I understand, you have a previous relationship with Moulson as well. How do you two know each other?
Me, him and John all went to the same gym. That was back a few years ago, they’re living in Connecticut full time, but we all went to the same gym and I kind of met them a few years back. Ever since then people kind of joked that we could all be on the same team one day and hopefully that will happen.
A hot topic right now in the NHL is the focus on disciplinary actions taken by the league. This inevitably leads to the argument that surrounds fighting. What are your thoughts on whether or not fighting should be allowed in the league?
Everyone has a different opinion. I think I like the fighting, as long as they can try to keep it as safe as possible. I think it’s a part of the game and if you ask all the fans, ask all the players, ask most of the guys that do it, they love doing it. I think it's part of the game and it’s tough to beat, there’s good arguments for both sides. But I think hockey would definitely miss fighting if they took it out of the game.
Out of curiosity, what team did you grow up rooting for?
I was a Leafs fan growing up.
It seems as if going to the same gym wasn't the only thing that he and JT had in common. It's a good thing that Moulson will be around for the next few years to keep an eye on these guys. It's an even better thing that they all might turn a joke of all playing together into a very serious and threatening reality for 29 other teams in the NHL.
And Isles fans might not have to wait very long at all.
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