Oilers will be expecting Strome to shoot more
Newcomer slotted for McDavid’s line will be encouraged to fire puck a bit more
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.”
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.