The New York Rangers have relied on their veterans to carry the team in this unusual season. No one more so than center Ryan Strome.
This season began with many tough questions for Strome. The 27-year-old signed a two-year extension worth $9 million, yet many around the hockey world wondered if his numbers last season were inflated playing with Artemi Panarin for most of the year.
He found the back of the net 18 times along with 41 assists for 59 points in the shortened pandemic season. His assist and point total were career highs as he entered a restricted free agency summer.
Ryan Strome proving doubters wrong
The second line center’s new deal had two theories behind it. One was that he had earned that contract regardless of who he had played with. The other and harsher suggestion was that if this season didn’t work out the team could leave him unprotected for the Seattle Expansion Draft to be held after the postseason concludes.
Strome decided to let his work ethic and commitment do the talking for him.
He has 33 points in 35 games this season ( 11 goals, 22 assists). The balance of his scoring is quite impressive. Of his 22 assists, 11 have been primary and 11 have been secondary. He has also found the score sheet when the Blueshirts have the man advantage recording 12 power-play assists along with one power-play goal.
At the faceoff circles, Strome has won 45.2% of the draws he has taken. The first-round pick, 5th overall, in the 2011 NHL Draft is averaging a little over 18 minutes per game this year.
Strome produced without Panarin
Strome, though missing his favorite winger, continued to impress even when Artemi Panarin took a leave of absence to handle some personal issue towards the end of February.
In the nine games, Panarin was away from the Rangers, Strome proved to himself, his team, and all of the doubters that he was worthy of his contract.
The Mississauga, Ontario had nine points, 4 goals, 5 assists, which included a power-play goal and two assists with the man advantage. A point per game average while arguably one of the best players in the NHL was missing from the lineup.
Strome ended the month on a tear by extending his point streak to 10 games (2-13—15) and his assist streak to nine (1-13—14). Only two players in franchise history have collected an assist in more consecutive games than Strome. Those two players are Brian Leetch (15) in 91′-’92 and Rod Gilbert (10) in ’68-’69.
Leader Off The Ice
Strome has done so much on the ice, it is easy to forget what he does off the ice for the team.
An example of the leadership skills he displays was apparent when discussing when Vitali Kravtsov would get into the lineup.
“I think it’s important that everyone takes things slow and expectations slow. Often times, especially to jump in the middle of the season when we’ve got a system and all these things going on, it’s tough to learn on the fly, so it’s not an easy thing that he’s going to have to do but he’s got the skill level to do it. We’ll see what happens and how the games go, looking forward to seeing what he can do,” he said to the New York Post last week.
Here is a veteran player who is talking about what Kravtsov can bring to the table, and at the same time acknowledging that it is better to take things a little slow and not throw him to the wolves or in the case Rangerstown.
The leadership here is great to see and something the club has needed throughout this season.
Goals and points are important but most times doesn’t define who a player truly is.
Strome is a player whose determination to achieve his and the team’s goals is recognizable. He has an understanding of what is going on around him on and off the ice. A player’s heart can carry him so far in today’s NHL, and right now Strome has made a huge difference this season.
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