When former No.1 pick Kyle Okposo subbed for Garth Snow and made the fifth overall selection of Strome official, it allowed Islander fans to dream of a potential dynamic duo that could steer the struggling franchise back to respectability. Even if Snow swung and missed on Christian Ehrhoff before recouping a fourth round pick from Buffalo, who now has less than 24 hours to sign this year's version of Dan Hamhuis, the Islander GM is taking his best shot- willing to roll the dice to bolster his club's chances of returning to the postseason in '11-12.
While he focuses on upgrading the current roster, Snow and Isles' brass went for skill in 18 year-old Strome, who is a crafty center with the kind of playmaking capabilities the club has lacked. After only playing 27 games with the Niagara Ice Dogs after coming over in a trade from the Barrie Colts, the Missisauga Ontario native exploded with 33 goals and 73 assists totaling 106 points over 65 contests in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League). He also went 6-6-12 in the playoffs, boosting his stock to the point where the Islanders chose him over Sean Couturier, who fell to the Flyers at No.8. Even better, Strome is familiar with Tavares, who he trains with.
"I work out with John, and he already called me as soon as it happened, I couldn't be happier. I have a guy to mentor me through the summer. I see him every day. I think I'm in a very good situation," Tavares' thrilled future teammate said of getting the chance to play with his buddy.
Like I said, I couldn't be happier with the situation, and I'm just excited to get things started.Will Tavares/Strome become Sakic/Forsberg, Lecavalier/Richards, Crosby/Malkin, Datsyuk/Zetterberg? That's the level of excitement Islander fans have for their newest draft pick, who hopefully will make the transformation sooner and be part of a nucleus that also features Nino Neiderreiter, who has a good chance of making the team next year.
"They're a young team. They've got a ton of assets. I want to grow with the team, and I want to win a championship. I know I'm young saying that, but that's what you want to do. You want to build from the ground up and that's what New York's doing, and I hope to contribute to that."Strome enjoyed much success last season that it made one ponder what the biggest difference was.
"I think just confidence in the second-year round. I worked really hard in the summer. I credit that to athlete training center where I work out with John, obviously. I came back with a ton of comments. I got the ball rolling early, and just tried to keep it rolling through the whole season. I mean, confidence is such a big thing in hockey, and that's what I tried to do."With the Islanders continuing to build around Tavares, Okposo, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey up front, overlooked is a blueline that features Travis Hamonic, Andrew MacDonald and anchor Mark Streit, who will return with future pieces in Calvin de haan and Matt Donovan, who should only bolster the back end for years to come. With Al Montoya recovering from surgery and Rick DiPietro fresh for the Fall, it should allow the organization to show patience with Kevin Poulin and Mikko Koskinen, who both got valuable experience in '10-11.
The club also has plenty of room if they decide to add a free agent when noon rolls around tomorrow. Snow does have to re-sign Group II's Comeau and Bailey, who also might be used as trade bait- depending on how they view the former '08 first rounder. Jack Hillen, Ty Wishart, Jesse Joensuu, Dylan Reese, Jeremy Colliton and Michael Haley are also restricteds they must decide on. Radek Martinek is likely done while enforcer Zenon Konopka should receive interest on the market.
Certainly, the pieces are in place for this New Era that hopefully will include a new arena, ensuring the Islanders' home off the Meadowbrook. There's plenty for Islander fans to look forward to and too much at stake.
2011 ISLANDERS DRAFT
Rd Overall Pos Name
1 5th C Ryan Strome
2 34th D Scott Mayfield
2 50th C Johan Sundstrom
3 63rd D Andrei Pedan
4 95th D Robbie Russo
5 125th LW John Persson
5 127th D Brenden Kitchton
7 185th C Mitchell Theoret