When the New York Islanders re-assigned rookie forward Ryan Strome to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport before the NHL went on a two-week break for the Olympics, the message to Strome was pretty simple, at least how Strome relayed what he was told to the inquiring media in Philadelphia after the Sound Tigers win over the Adirondack Phantoms.
“Just keep playing hard,” Strome said.
After watching what Strome was doing during the NHL’s Olympic break in the AHL, it’s safe to say he got the message.
Strome was named to the AHL All Star team and did not disappoint at the Skills Competition and All-Star Game against the Swedish League’s Farjestad BK (FBK) on subsequent nights back on February 11th and 12th. After missing his first two shots in the accuracy shooting contest, Strome nailed four straight targets to take a share of the AHL lead of 4 for 6. In the All-Star Game the following night, Strome tallied two goals in the AHL’s 7-2 win over FBK.
Once back in Bridgeport, Strome picked up right where he left off, tallying six points (2G-4A) in his next five games before being called back up to the Islanders after the conclusion of the NHL’s Olympic break.
“Every time you get sent down you obviously have some things you have to work on and I definitely have been doing that.”
What in particular were the Islanders looking for out of Strome during the Olympic break?
“Continue to play both sides of the puck, and 200 feet, and just play hard,” Strome said. They want us to compete and bring that battle level.”
Strome’s “First Year Experience”
There’s been a lot of highlights through the first half of Strome’s rookie season. Here’s some of the notables:
- AHL Player of the Week (Nov. 25th-Dec. 1st) with three goals, three assists and a plus-4 rating in three games over a span of less than 48 hours.
- AHL Player of the Week (Dec. 2nd-Dec. 8th) with two goals and six assists for eight points along with a plus-6 rating in three games.
- Only the 3rd AHL player in last 20 years to win back-to-back weekly awards.
- First NHL recall: Dec. 11th
- First NHL game: Dec. 14th at home against Montreal
- First NHL goal: Jan. 6th at home against Dallas
- AHL Stats (through 2/28): 37gp, 13G-36A, +16, 41 PIM
- NHL Stats (through 2/28): 16gp, 1G-4A, Even, 2 PIM
“It’s been good. I think I have been ready for this for a while,” Strome said. “I had to go back to junior for two years after the draft but I’m here now.”
“Every day is a learning experience and I’m trying to soak it all in and have fun,” Strome said. “I think I’ve been doing pretty well so I just got to try to keep that upward trend and hopefully be in the next league before you know it.”
What The Future Holds
Strome didn’t have to wait much longer after the roster freeze was removed, being called up to the Islanders last Monday morning along with both of his linemates from Bridgeport, Mike Halmo (who has since returned to Bridgeport) and fellow rookie Anders Lee.
It didn’t take long for Strome, or Lee for that matter, to make an impression. In the Islanders first game after the Olympic break Thursday night against Toronto, the two teamed up on two goals in the Islanders 5-4 OT win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Strome didn’t get an assist on the first of two goals by Lee, but made the play happen by winning a puck battle along the boards on a power-play and feeding it to the point. The defenseman fed a pass across the blue line to Calvin de Haan, who set up Josh Bailey and the subsequent follow up by Lee for Lee’s first NHL goal.
Strome nearly netted the second NHL goal of his 16-game career later on, when his attempt at a bad angle shot behind the net banked in off goaltender Jonathan Bernier and Lee, who got credit for his second goal of the game.
With John Tavares’s season over, Strome has a great opportunity to show the Islanders brass what he is capable of in hopes of sticking with the NHL club the rest of this season.
“You can look at the numbers all you want but at the same time nothing is given,” Strome said. “A lot of the guys are hungry for that spot.”
“Definitely, you want to take those opportunities and go with it,” Strome said, adding “I think there’s a situation where you might have that opportunity and you got to try to make the most of it.”
Follow Tony Androckitis on Twitter via @H_P_Hockey