Oil­ers will be ex­pect­ing Strome to shoot more

New­comer slot­ted for McDavid’s line will be en­cour­aged to fire puck a bit more

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - JIM MATHE­SON jmath­e­son@postmedia.com On Twit­ter: @NHLbyMatty

The book on Ryan Strome is he would rather pass than shoot.

That’s prob­a­bly not a good thing if he’s go­ing to play right-wing with Con­nor McDavid un­less the Edmonton Oil­ers cap­tain has de­cided he’s go­ing to try to score 50 be­cause peo­ple have been carp­ing that the Na­tional Hockey league’s reign­ing most valu­able player doesn’t shoot enough.

Then McDavid would need some­one to feed him, not the other way around.

“I’ve al­ways been a passer and in pro hockey I’ve learned you have to shoot the puck more… not just to score but be­cause the goalies are so good you have to get the puck there (net, crease) to get other guys goals,” said the right-shot Strome, who came to the Oil­ers in a trade for Jordan Eberle and who has scored 45 ca­reer goals.

“It (lack of shots) has been brought to my at­ten­tion be­fore even the first Oiler skate. I’ve been work­ing on my shot (over the sum­mer).”

Strome fired a measly 114 shots in 69 games last sea­son with the New York Is­lan­ders. In his 258 ca­reer NHL games, he has 514 shots, which is an av­er­age of only two a game. Of course, Strome was a cen­tre in ju­nior, scor­ing 33 goals and 73 as­sists in 2011, the year he was the Isles’ fifth over­all draft pick, so play­mak­ing comes nat­u­rally to the 24-year-old, but he’s been play­ing wing al­most ex­clu­sively in the NHL.

They’re paid to fire away and score.

Oil­ers head coach Todd McLel­lan doesn’t like com­par­ing Eberle to Strome be­cause he sees them as dif­fer­ent types of play­ers.

“Their paths and ex­pe­ri­ence and size are dif­fer­ent,” he said. “The strength and size fac­tor (Strome weighs 199 pounds, Eberle 175) favours Ryan, but one thing Ebs did was shoot the puck a lot and we’re go­ing to chal­lenge Strome to do the same. We have to get his shot to­tals up. To only have 114 shots last sea­son with his skill level isn’t enough. With the play­ers he’ll be play­ing with now, we’ll need a lot more.

“Ryan’s prob­a­bly go­ing to see the puck a lot with Con­nor and he has to put him­self in the right po­si­tion. Some­times play­ers don’t shoot for a rea­son and we have to fig­ure that out. But we have to get him shoot­ing more.”

McLel­lan’s lines to open camp are of­ten how the coach en­vi­sions the units once reg­u­lar-sea­son starts, so we should get used to the Patrick Ma­roon-McDavidStrome combo in ex­hi­bi­tions to build some rap­port be­cause the for­ward is com­ing in cold to a team that racked up 103 points last year. Strome isn’t go­ing to re­place No. 2 cen­tre Leon Drai­saitl on the right side, not af­ter their sec­ond-half magic which car­ried over into part of the play­offs, but hope­fully Strome can fill Jordan Eberle’s top six slot. Eberle had five 20-goal sea­sons with the Oil­ers and would get 170-200 shots per cam­paign.

Strome got his first prac­tice taste of McDavid and ad­mits get­ting used to the cap­tain’s speed will be the big­gest ad­just­ment.

“Oooh, he can fly,” said Strome. “Patty (Ma­roon) came over to me and said “he’s pretty fast, huh?”

Strome, who could also be the No. 3 cen­tre down the road if Drai­saitl moves to McDavid’s line or, say, plays right side on a sec­ond line with Ryan Nu­gent-Hopkins, for now is a right-winger in McLel­lan’s eyes.

He doesn’t see the slot be­side McDavid as a heavy weight at all.

“He’s one of the best play­ers in the world, if not the best,” he said. “It’s opportunity, not pres­sure. Ev­ery­thing about Edmonton is opportunity right now, the way the team’s built with the young guys and the older ones. Fresh start for me, it’s ex­cit­ing.

“It’s go­ing to be ad­just­ment on where to get Con­nor the puck with how fast he moves. I know Patty is a big body who likes to be around the net. If we can grow that chem­istry, great, al­though I’ve seen how play­ers move through the lineup.”

Strome spent some time Is­lan­ders star John Tavares’s line, so he’s used to play­ing with great tal­ents, but Tavares and McDavid play the game a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. McDavid blows peo­ple away with his speed, pushes back check­ers while Tavares holds onto the puck longer. Tavares shoots more.

“I played a year with Tavares, then it was on and off,” said Strome. “John’s def­i­nitely a top 10 player in the world. Lots of skill. Their work ethics and mind­sets are very driven. They have that will to score ev­ery time they touch the puck.”

CODIE MCLACH­LAN/ THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Edmonton Oil­ers new­comer Ryan Strome goes through the paces dur­ing Fri­day’s train­ing champ ses­sion at Rogers Place. The Oil­ers are hop­ing that Strome, who was ac­quired from the Is­lan­ders, will be ef­fec­tive play­ing on a line with Con­ner McDavid.

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