Second City Hockey’s 2020-21 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2020. The rankings are determined by a composite score from three SCH writers and community member, L_B_R. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
Sometimes it’s hard to recall that Dylan Strome is just 23 years old.
He was 19 when he made his NHL debut with the Arizona Coyotes early in the 2016-17 season and just finished his second full NHL season — about 1.75 of them with the Blackhawks.
Strome enjoyed the best stretch of his career when Chicago acquired him in October 2018, racking up 51 points (17 G, 34 A) in 58 games — a 0.88 PPG pace. That rate dipped to 0.66 in the shortened ‘19-20 season, as Strome bounced up and down the Chicago lineup and rotated between center and wing as coach Jeremy Colliton spent most of the season trying to find winning line combinations. It didn’t happen often.
And that’s where the mystery surrounding Strome remains. Is he a center or is he a wing? Is he the legitimate top-six forward he appeared to be after arriving in Chicago? Or is he the second and third-line tweener that he sometimes resembled during the ‘19-20 season? He’s still young, so there’s a chance Strome can find another level to his play. But will he become the obvious top-line producer that’s expected of a former No. 3 overall pick?
The Blackhawks are committed to learning more about their younger players in the upcoming season. Strome may have as much to gain — or lose — as any other player on the roster because of the ceiling associated with his potential.
Before any evaluation can happen, Strome has to be re-signed. He’s currently a restricted free agent, as he’s been since his entry-level contract expired at the end of the prior season. Strome was reportedly available for a trade in the spring, but moves the Blackhawks have made since then have created enough cap space to afford Strome — if that’s the plan.
A short-term bridge deal would appear to be the most logical solution. That gives the Blackhawks a chance to decide on Strome’s long-term viability and gives Strome the potential to reap the financial rewards in a few seasons should he take another step forward in his development.
If he’s with Chicago, he’ll likely be in the top six. The specific location, the linemates and how Strome will perform in that spot will remain a mystery until January. But how that is resolved will be one of the biggest storylines to watch in the upcoming season.
All advanced statistics from Natural Stat Trick