Mitchell Theoret has seen enough of Islanders first-round draft pick Ryan Strome to be somewhat of an authority.
Whether it's on the ice -- the two played together last season with the Niagara IceDogs -- or off -- they flew together from Toronto to New York on Monday, waiting an hour for their hockey equipment at baggage claim and braving a crazy taxicab commute to Long Island, he's well-versed on the player the Islanders selected with the fifth overall pick.
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So when pushed for a scouting report, Theoret didn't hesitate.
"Can I just say lights out?'' he said.
"He's just a game-changer," continued Theoret, an 18-year-old winger drafted by the Islanders in the seventh round. "You just know he's going to do something. Whether it's scoring the game-tying goal, setting up a teammate or even dropping the gloves, he'll do it."
People talk about Strome's offensive skills (33 goals, 73 assists, 106 points), his creativity and his ability to make his teammates better, but those who know him also laud his ability to deliver in big situations. So with the 18-year-old center heading into his first NHL camp, the general warning is this: "Don't count this kid out."
"I'd never bet against Ryan," IceDogs coach and general manager Marty Williamson told Newsday when reached by phone earlier this week.
Williamson said he thinks the 6-1, 185-pound Strome could use another year in junior hockey to develop physically and fine-tune his game, but he's seen the Mississauga, Ontario, native surprise people before. Strome made a monstrous 79-point leap in production in 2010-11 from his previous season in the Ontario Hockey League.
"He made a huge jump," Williamson said. "Now he wants the puck, he wants to be the go-to guy."
Strome hopes to show that on the Coliseum ice this week in front of Islanders coach Jack Capuano and his staff.
"I just want to be one of the best guys at camp, show them that age doesn't necessarily matter," Strome said. "I want to make a good first impression, show them that they made the right choice [in drafting me] and that there is a bright future here."
After the whirlwind of the draft June 24-25 in Minneapolis, Strome returned home to suburban Ontario to work out and train for his first minicamp.
He carefully observed former No. 1 pick and fellow Islander John Tavares in the gym, and vowed to adopt a similarly serious approach to his offseason preparation.
With five pounds already added since the combine and about 5,000 new Twitter followers, thanks to the Islanders' loyal fan base, Strome is heading into camp eager for the opportunity and willing to absorb the challenge.
"I'm sure, after camp," he said, "I'll know a bit more about myself."