The Islanders' Ryan Strome, the organization's first round pick in...

The Islanders' Ryan Strome, the organization's first round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft (fifth overall), skates in pre-game practice before the team's annual Blue and White scrimmage and skills competition at Nassau Coliseum. (July 16, 2011) Credit: James Escher

Ryan Strome made the 3 p.m. roster cutoff Wednesday with the Islanders, just a day after signing his three-year, entry-level contract.

Neither of those achievements guarantees that Strome, the fifth pick in June's NHL draft, will be an Islander beyond this weekend, or next week, or all the way through Oct. 29, which is the date of the Islanders' ninth game this season. That's the cutoff point for junior-eligible players to either return to their junior teams or stay with the big club the whole season.

He's here now, though, and he'll be in Nassau Coliseum on Saturday when the Isles open the 2011-12 season against the Panthers. Barring an injury, Strome won't play in that game, or likely in any regular- season games, which may seem like an odd decision in keeping the 18-year-old around.

But he's staying to learn by watching rather than by doing.

"He's learned a lot so far, from the rookie camp to the rookie games to playing games against NHL players in the preseason, and we want him to keep on learning, being around all our guys," coach Jack Capuano said. "He's one of those kids who gets it. He understands, he evaluates himself and he knows he's here to soak it all up."

Strome played in three of the five preseason games and the only time he made the stat sheet was when he received a boarding major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind on the Devils' Stephen Gionta on Friday. But Capuano liked what he saw, and Strome just liked being a part of his first NHL camp.

"Everything now is just an added bonus," he said.

Of what he needs to work on when he goes back to Niagara of the Ontario League, Strome said, "I just need to get quicker. The game moves a lot faster up here -- I know everyone says that, but until you actually get in a game and see it for yourself, it's hard to know. I just need to be able to make quicker decisions and quicker plays with the puck."

He will be limited to practice now. Nino Niederreiter and Trevor Gillies are both on injured reserve with groin strains; when Niederreiter comes off IR, likely in a week or two, Strome may be headed back to Niagara.

"If I'm here a day, then I'm going to work my hardest for that day," Strome said. "If it's a week, I'll work my hardest for that week. I'm not thinking about anything except what's right in front of me."

Notes & quotes: Capuano said Niederreiter, who is eligible to come off IR Friday, is "still in the early stages" with his injury . . . D Milan Jurcina (groin) skated and is still day to day . . . To get to the 23-man roster (plus players on IR), the Isles sent C Trevor Frischmon and D Dylan Reese to Bridgeport and sent F Kirill Kabanov to his junior team, Blainville-Boisbriand of the Quebec League.

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