Three years ago, the top of the NHL Draft featured a generational talent in Connor McDavid, followed by Jack Eichel, another player widely regarded as a franchise cornerstone. The third player in that draft, also a center, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks: Dylan Strome. Let’s see what the Blackhawks have in one of their newest additions to the roster:
Strome was selected third overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2015 NHL Draft, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound center. The 21-year-old native of Mississauga, Ontario, was one of the top scorers during his time with the OHL’s Erie Otters. In the 2014-15 season, he had 129 points (45 goals, 84 assists), edging Mitch Marner for the scoring title. He backed that up with 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in the 2015-16 season. One of Strome’s linemates in Erie was Blackhawks young phenom Alex DeBrincat, who also torched the OHL during his time there. More on that later.
Strome split the 2016-17 NHL season between the Otters and the Coyotes, playing in his first seven NHL games and tallying one assist. For 2017-18, Strome played 21 games with the Coyotes (4 goals, 5 assists) but spent the majority of the season with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, scoring 22 goals with 31 assists in 50 games. In his 20 games with the Coyotes this season, Strome had just three goals and three assists.
One of Strome’s biggest strengths is at the faceoff dot, where he’s won 58 percent of his draws this season — an area of weakness for the Blackhawks outside of No. 1 center Jonathan Toews.
The biggest knock on Strome is his skating. Multiple scouting reports on Strome indicate that he struggles to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of the NHL, a point made by Corey Pronman of The Athletic in his review of the trade.
Cat Silverman, another writer for The Athletic who covers the Coyotes, tweeted her thoughts on Strome on Sunday night:
Re: Strome, the raw comparison to Joe Thornton is still evident. But where Jumbo can hold others off the puck as he sets up offensive plays, Strome still gets bodied off and loses those puck battles. Think that’s the key to eventual, potential NHL success.— Catherine Silverman (@catmsilverman) November 26, 2018
This is the ideal play for Strome. Question, of course, is how often he can produce this style, and what quality of competition he’s able to produce it against. https://t.co/bqkpbnEjLj— Catherine Silverman (@catmsilverman) November 26, 2018
Strome has solid hands and a hard, quality shot, something he demonstrated in his first NHL goal:
There’s undeniable talent with Strome: players don’t get selected third overall without having an incredible amount of hockey ability. But drafting highly-touted teenagers to play in a league full of grown men doesn’t always work out, no matter how long those talented youngsters are given to develop. In the three years that have elapsed since Strome was drafted, he hasn’t lived up to the billing of a No. 3 pick. There are flashes of the playmaking ability that made Strome a top prospect in 2015. But a lack of speed and other issues, like Strome’s reported penchant for losing puck battles, have kept Strome from putting it all together at the NHL level.
But the Blackhawks can offer something the Coyotes could not.
And that’s the opportunity to skate with top-notch linemates. While the Coyotes are building a strong young core, they don’t have a player like Patrick Kane, or even a DeBrincat. If there’s one dose of optimism for Blackhawks fans as a result of this trade, it’s that Strome could get his first chance, at the NHL level, to skate with hockey players who have a similar offensive vision as he does. And given Strome’s large frame and faceoff prowess, he’d be a perfect center between Kane and DeBrincat (with the potential bonus of DeBrincat rekindling some of that old OHL magic they shared with the Otters).
Strome can play at the NHL level. It’s just a matter of how well he can play, and how much he can fulfill of the lofty expectations that he created prior to the 2015 NHL Draft.