Forward Ryan Strome is playing his best hockey with Doug Weight behind the Islanders bench.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t wasn’t very long ago that Ryan Strome was one of the league’s best prospects.
Strome, 23, was drafted fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 2011, after drawing comparisons to bonafide stars such as Steven Stamkos and Jason Spezza. He was lauded for his ‘outstanding vision, spectacular creativity and deft playmaking ability.’
But since impressing during his rookie campaign, Strome has struggled at the professional level. He’s had multiple cringe-worthy moments this season, including a mid-game benching for laziness in the defensive zone and consecutive healthy scratches.
It seems like he’s turned the corner, though.
Since Jack Capuano‘s firing — and Doug Weight’s subsequent hiring — Strome has been unconscious. He’s notched eight points in his last six games, and has been responsible on both ends of the ice.
“He is engaging and cognizant defensively,” Weight said, via Gershon Rabinowitz of New York Sports Day. “I told him I needed better plays at certain times and he’s done that. He’s not skiing out there and is shooting the puck well. He is producing and starting to get good results.”
Fans constantly griped about Capuano’s handling of prospects; some even believed that he hindered their success. Under Weight’s tutelage, Strome has picked up his game.
“All I told him was that he needed to elevate his game,” Weight said. “I believe in the kid. He is coachable and is a really good kid. He wants to get better or he is not going to play. We had a couple of really good talks and he is gaining confidence. It’s nothing I did. We are just putting him on the ice in good situations.”
That’s a really prudent point: Strome has been regaining confidence, something that has eluded the streaky goalscorer since the beginning of last season. So how is he getting it back?
There have been two tangible shifts in terms of usage from when Capuano was behind the bench: first, Strome has been paired with Brock Nelson, his original ‘Kid Line’ linemate; second, Strome has been added to the power play, where his creativity and deft playmaking ability has translated into offensive production.
“I think when you do the little things and make a good play, you get rewarded,” Strome said. “We are working hard and doing the right things. Sometimes they don’t go in, but when they do, you got to ride the wave. Brock and I are very close and it’s important for our line to provide secondary scoring.”
It’s that character — his work ethic and humility — that has catapulted him back into the conversation. When everybody wrote him off, Strome did what the best athletes do: he worked even harder.
“I have known Strome for a long time, dating back to when we drafted him,” Weight said. “Everybody is different. I can be tough on Ryan. He can handle things and he wants to hear it. I am honest with him and in his ear during the game.”