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New York Islanders Top 25 Under 25: Ryan Strome carries our youthful hopes at #1

We haven't given up. He hasn't given in. Let's do this.

Congratulations on an honor as significant as the Messier Leadership Award!
Congratulations on an honor as significant as the Messier Leadership Award!
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Ryan Strome is the fourth-oldest player on this list, but he's still just 22. (He'll turn 23 in July.) Collectively, we think that earns him some leeway for a down season, particularly given what he showed in 2014-15 (17 goals, 50 points) and given the coaching tough love he dealt with in 2015-16.

While Strome's game showed some cliche-friendly deficiencies (perimeter player, not hard on pucks, etc.), and he conceded he is a player who perhaps needs the occasional motivational kick in the rump, most still think he wasn't cut much slack by the coaching staff last season, which featured a brief demotion to the AHL and healthy scratches at critical moments down the stretch.

That treatment may yet pay off -- and if his ceiling is higher than the older and not waiver-exempt Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, all the more reason to hold him to the highest standard. But with the waiver exemption now gone, the playoff scratch messages a thing of permanent record, it's high time they give him an opportunity that he can run with for weeks without fear of punishment at the first sign of a mini-slump.

Wait, HOLD on. Am I rationalizing the disappointing performance of the player half of us judged to be the Islanders' best under-25 player?

Well, how about this: If the real contributing potential of Ryan Strome at age 22 was somewhere between what the coaches evaluated him to be and what we believed him to be, that's still better than what they got last season, which was a ghastly 8 goals and 20 assists in 71 regular season games. (People forget that...despite the AHL spell and other scratches, he played nearly a full NHL season.)

He handled the turmoil fine, with determination to work more this summer and give them no reason to scratch him "ever again." So now is the time. As with Mathew Barzal, for the Islanders to take another step while John Tavares is still affordable, they'll likely need big contributions from youth like this.

How We Voted (and Why)

King (CIL) Keith Mike B. McNally Garik Dominik Leboff Les
2 1

David King (CanadianIslesLifer):

Obviously this past season was a disappointment, given the progress Strome made the season prior (his first full season) when he scored 17 goals to go with 33 assists for 50 points in 81 games. Even Strome's defensive game seems to have disappeared.

There has been criticism of the Isles decision to refurbish Strome, a natural centre, into a right winger. Time will eventually sort that one out, but I do expect Strome to develop into a consistent 50 to 60 pt player.

All the skills that made Strome a success earlier in his career, the hockey I.Q., the vision, passing etc., are obviously still part of his game. I get that Strome needs to improve on his play away from the puck, but I suspect he is lacking somewhat in the self-confidence department. Might be a good idea to send him to the same sports psychologist who helped Kyle Okposo .


It feels dirty to put him at 1, but almost as dirty to move him. Could easily put three guys ahead of him here, but immense potential and 2014-2015 keeping him ahead of the others. Team needs to decide what position he should probably be center.

Mike B.:

Despite the slump, a great talent. I can see him becoming a full-time RW and settling into a 70+ point peak.


My favorite of the Under 25's, Strome's vision is otherworldly. He is a difference maker that had a rough sophomore season. I expect him to come back in September with a renewed focus. If he improves his defense and play without the puck, he'll see an increased role, and increased numbers on the score sheet.


Really rough sophomore year for Strome, but he's still two years younger than Nelson, with a year in 2014-15 basically better than any Nelson year, and hopefully will get things together. The potential improvement is much higher here, so he's #1 with so many other players graduating off this list.


Love built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies.

Les (HockeyGoalieEh):

Ryan Strome had a horrible sophmore season in 2015-2016, though not bad enough to get benched in the playoffs like he was. His skill is very much like a more talented, right-handed version of Josh Bailey. There's no doubting his talent level, but one has to wonder whether or not he'll ever be able to turn the corner with a coaching staff that seems hell-bent on neutering skilled players in the name of becoming more "complete."

From that perspective, the Islanders advancement into the second round by virtue of laying and praying on the outstanding season of a backup goalie and a missed tripping penalty only to be obliterated by a superior team missing their best forward and second bast defenseman may have been the worst thing for a player like Ryan Strome. It ensures that a coaching staff that has the potential to ruin him returns and taints the fan base's hope for the future.


Thanks to our panelists, and thanks for all the readers who chimed in and enriched the discussion throughout this countdown. We'll have one more post to put this in a bit of historical (and self-evaluating) perspective, but after that it's on to the draft, where new names will join this list, and free agency/trading season, where some existing names may disappear.

Previously in the Top 25 Under 25