In the frenzied moments after being announced as the 5th overall pick, Ryan Strome received a phone call from someone who knows just what that blur of emotions is like on draft day,
Former first overall pick John Tavares, who trains during the summer with Strome back in Ontario, congratulated the 17-year-old center and welcomed him to the Islanders organization.
“It’s a guy I trained with in the summer, I see him every day. I couldn’t be happier with the situation. I’m so excited,” Strome said.
That phone call was one of the few moments he could recall in the whirlwind of events that transpired when Islanders forward Kyle Okposo announced his name as the team’s first round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
“I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Strome, who hails from Mississauga, Ontario. “Sitting there and being picked fifth overall, It’s pretty special…it really is the best day of my life.”
Strome (6-foot-0, 183 pounds) finished third in scoring in the Ontario Hockey League with 106 points (33 goals, 73 assists) in 65 games for the Niagara IceDogs, a 79-point improvement from 2009-10 when he split time with Niagara and the Barrie Colts.
General Manager Garth Snow said the Islanders liked Strome for his exceptional offensive skills.
“He’s a very offensively-gifted player that fits into our young core and what we’re trying to build here,” Snow said. “Fans are going to get the chance to see how offensively dynamic he is at mini-camp in July.”
Snow solicited a scouting report on Strome from Tavares before the draft and liked what he heard.
“He’s a special player. The way he sees the ice is exceptional,” Tavares said at the team’s draft party back in Long Island. “We were in the gym on Monday talking about the possibility and the experience being with Garth and the organization so you could see the excitement in him then and I’m sure now he’s thrilled.”
Snow said he actually sees some similarities between Strome and Tavares.
“In many ways, he’s a lot like John in the way he approaches the game and views his potential,” Snow said. “We’ve got ourselves a very self-motivated player.”
Although Strome deferred to Snow when asked if he felt NHL-ready, he was not shy about sharing his ambitions on Long Island.
“I want to grow with a team and win a championship,” Strome said. “I know I’m young to say that but that’s what you’ve got to do, build from the ground up. I think that’s what New York is doing and I just want to contribute to that.”
Strome was voted the OHL’s Most Improved Player and Best Playmaker for his standout 2010-11 season, during which he jumped from 19th in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s mid-season rankings to 8th in the final rankings.
“I’m a skill player. I try to create a lot of offense. I try to use my teammates as much as I can,” Strome said when asked to describe his game. “Really, I think I’m a complete player and I like to think I’m a good leader. That’s been working for me so I hope to continue with that.”