The former fifth overall pick — who was traded to the Oilers on Thursday afternoon — never reached his potential with the New York Islanders.
Ryan Strome’s tenure with the New York Islanders was defined by lofty expectations. Once the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, he was routinely praised for his superlative offensive talent.
Strome was traded on Thursday afternoon to the Edmonton Oilers. The Islanders got Jordan Eberle in return. The cause was none other than those lofty expectations, which the 23-year-old never seemed able to conquer.
Starting before the 2011 NHL Draft, scouts began to take notice of Strome’s “keen offensive prowess.” One particular writer, THW’s Jeff Blay, compared Strome to NBA legend Dominique Wilkins, who was once nicknamed the “Human Highlight Reel.”
While evaluators were busy drooling over Strome’s repertoire of moves, a writer by the name of Mark Edwards noticed something about his play. In 2011 he remarked how Strome lived on the perimeter rather than the dirty areas.
Although Edwards also commented on how the prospect had made strides on becoming a more complete player, the damage was done. In just a few short seasons in the NHL, Strome would prove that those strides were more of an illusion than a reality. He just wouldn’t be that great without the puck.
But that alone isn’t a sufficient explanation for Strome’s well-documented struggles. Rather, as was already discussed, Strome never lived up to the hype, probably because there was too much hype. It’s tough to perform at the highest level with confidence issues. And that’s exactly what seemed to hurt Strome.
Between getting scratched and regressing statistically, Strome’s confidence seemingly eroded.
That is, until Doug Weight replaced Jack Capuano behind the bench at the halfway point of the 2016-17 season. All of the sudden, many of his issues seemed to evaporate. He was responsible on both ends of the ice and in greater control of the game. It was as if a lightbulb went off in his head.
“He is engaging and cognizant defensively,” Weight said in February. “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.”
Which is why, after a half-decade of waiting to reap the benefits of their prized young talent, it’s surprising that Strome’s tenure with the Islanders has come to a close. Or… maybe it isn’t.
Even though Strome has made strides over the past couple of months, he’s still barely grazed at his potential. It’s likely that had he remained with the Isles, he never would have reached it.
At least with the Oilers, Strome gets a change in scenery. Whether or not he emerges as a star will be up to him. Meanwhile, the Isles will play their hand at a similar type of player, Jordan Eberle.
The two players, connected by a trade that sends them across borders and through cities, will have a chance to emerge as stars — with the help of a change in scenery.