February 14, 2011
It's a convenient day to highlight Niagara IceDogs star Ryan Strome, since the 17-year-old centre is your new Ontario Hockey League (co-)scoring leader, sharing top spot with overage Jason Akeson.
Is the Mississauga native, whom BTN featured in 5 Questions a couple months ago, nearing the rare strata of a draft-year forward who might be the OHL's MVP. Here's something to consider: last season, Tyler Seguin factored into 45.1 per cent of Plymouth Whalers goals (only counting the games he played; he missed two). Strome, with 89 points for the surging IceDogs, is in that range at 42.8%. Brock Otten, for one, believes the Niagara star has a shot at repeating Seguin's feat of being league MVP at 17:
Could we really see back to back draft eligible players take home this award? It certainly seems likely. Strome has been a consistent offensive performer all season long and has recently taken over the scoring lead from Tyler Toffoli. The Dogs are now only 4 points back of Mississauga for the top spot in the East (and the entire league). Could voters really ignore the type of season and the type of impact Strome has had for Niagara, if they end up on top of the league? (OHL Prospects)
For anyone wondering why that is big deal, only five of the the OHL's last 20 winners of the Red Tilson Trophy have been pre-draft age (the other four: Seguin, John Tavares, David Legwand and Eric Lindros, so yeah, some pretty rich company). Also, Strome having more points in Niagara (26 goals, 89 points in 53 points) than top draft prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins does in Red Deer (20 and 83 in 56 games) will only feed the perception Strome is this season's closest answer to Jeff Skinner, putting up such gaudy numbers people almost assume it has to be illusory.
Strome was kind of buried in his age-16 season, between being on a stacked veteran Barrie Colts team and then going over to Niagara, which was trying to grind out points to make the playoffs. That meant any buzz Strome had entering the season was limited to the diehards, as Dan Sallows noted:
I wonder if maybe some of that has to do with ...he kind of struggled for the early part of the year last year and Barrie and when he got moved to Niagara he kind of kicked it into another gear. He's a decent-sized kid with excellent hockey vision, has a really good shot, is a strong two-way player. He's a played who's going to move up and I think you'll see him maybe go in the top 20 [in the NHL draft]. (The Pipeline Show, audio)
Throw in Niagara's push for first overall (four points out, although there will come a point when they crest), and Strome has a case. The Strome-Jason Wilson-Freddie Hamilton line might be the OHL's hottest, since the Ottawa 67's have separated the RST Line of Ryan Martindale, Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli in a bid to find consistency.
Pretty much everyone saw that bit of brilliance Strome pulled off in late October against the Plymouth Whalers. More recently, though, he's showing off that he's got the hands and nose for the net ...
.... along with the shot:
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. (Photo: OHL Images; video, TV Cogeco Ontario.)