Going back to the day the Islanders selected him 5th overall in 2011, some immediately had visions of Ryan Strome one day forming a lethal combo with John Tavares on #91's wing. Others have visions of Strome forming a 1-2 punch with Tavares down the middle, two centers carrying different lines but partnering on the powerplay to wreak extra-man havoc.
However it plays out will be pivotal for the Islanders depth chart -- will they need another skilled center to slot in between Tavares and Frans Nielsen? Just so long as it plays out one way or another with Strome hitting his potential.
It's very early for proclamations. (Who can forget the "he'll need to be moved to the wing" idea floated about Tavares in his rookie year before his skating and all-zone acumen improved?) But right now Strome possesses the skills, the potential, and the lack of chances to fail at the NHL level that rank him high -- not only on the list of Islanders prospects but on the list of all Islanders properties under 25.
For now, Strome was drafted as a center and should be considered one. All of that can change as evidence mounts, and if he jumps to the NHL for his age 19 season (a topic hotly debated among Islanders fans already). But we look at him now as quite possibly the second-most talented forward in the entire Islanders organization.
Strome's production with OHL Niagara dropped off ever so slightly this season, but that's colored by a delayed start while with the Islanders and an injury that robbed him of several weeks. In reality, he had 1.6+ points per game in 2010-11 and 1.5+ points per game in 2011-12. He has still been over a point-per-game player in both OHL seasons, in the 2011-12 playoffs, and with Team Canada at the WJC too.
This after a reported concentration on shoring up the defensive side of his game as a homework assignment from the Islanders when he was returned to juniors soon after training camp in October.
As far as summer plans, Strome was also recently selected for August's Canada-Russia challenge to be played in Yaroslavl and Halifax.
How We Voted
So the Top 25 Islanders Under 25 list is mean to be part-talent, part-potential, part "who can be a good player right now?" So how can Strome be rated above others who already have NHL games under their belts? Well, it's a dilemma when speaking of special talents like him.
Mike (mikb) captures the dilemma like so:
That is the biggest reason why I have Strome all the way down at tenth. I have every hope that he's the real deal; but until he plays an NHL game, I don't feel right bumping him into the top five among actual proven NHL players. He could have gone ahead of Ullstrom and Cizikas, I suppose - he'll almost certainly do so in my next 25U25, barring injury. Not yet.
Here are the ballots: