When the 2015-16 hockey season begins all eyes will be on Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Both household names across the hockey world, both dubbed generational talents, both set to begin their NHL careers in October. While McDavid and Eichel will most certainly provide entertaining story-lines to hockey fans for the next 20+ years there are a number of other NHL prospects suiting up in the OHL that are worth keeping an eye on. Some have serious breakout potential, some will face new challenges and increased responsibility, some are in need of a bounce back season. Whatever the case may be, it is my goal that by the time the puck drops on September 24th you have the information and insight you need to follow more than just your favourite CHL team.
Dylan Strome – Arizona Coyotes
2014/15 Team: Erie Otters (OHL)
Draft Status: Selected 3rd Overall by the Arizona Coyotes in 2015
There is a chance that Dylan Strome sticks in Arizona this year, although, I think we’ll see more of a Sam Reinhart situation. My guess is that he appears on the Coyotes roster opening night and plays in the first 5-9 games before being sent back to a “McDavidless” Erie Otters team. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Dylan Strome this season to see if he can repeat his CHL leading 129 point performance from last year without Connor McDangles … I mean McDavid. To be clear, I am not suggesting that Strome’s success was a byproduct of being McDavid’s teammate. He is a legit top tier prospect in his own right; who owns an incredible all-around skill set. He could stand to improve his skating and foot speed, but they used to say that about John Tavares too.
Strome and McDavid didn’t see much even strength ice time together and he carried the load quite well after McDavid busted up his knuckles in November. The Erie Otters played 21 games without Connor McDavid (who missed time due to injury and because of his participation in the World Junior Championships). For those 21 games Strome was promoted to the team’s top line from his role as number two center. During McDavid’s absence Strome’s production dipped slightly but he remained an offensive juggernaut scoring 18 goals and adding 17 helpers for a healthy 35 points. So while he probably won’t equal his totals from last year, he will remain one of the league’s most formidable offensive threats and should, barring injury, race neck-and-neck with Mitch Marner for the league scoring title.
Last season’s 21 game stint without McDavid provides a small sample of what an Erie Otters team led by Dylan Strome can accomplish. I look forward to following how the story manifests itself over an entire season. If Strome is sent back to Erie, he will attract the attention of the OHL’s top shutdown D-men and his opponent’s top line; attention that was mostly reserved for McDavid last season. He will also be without McDavid on the PP and will be relied upon more heavily in all situations, on a team that will seem much more average without the McDavid factor. Strome will also be leaned on to fill the leadership void left by McDavid, Erie’s 2014-15 team captain. Even if Strome isn’t donning the “C” on his jersey this season his leadership role is set to expand.
I don’t expect Dylan Strome to equal the 129 points he put up last year and if he doesn’t I don’t see this as a failure (he’ll also miss time for the WJC’s). I do see him remaining a dominant offensive force in the OHL capable of 100+ points and playing an integral role on Canada’s World Junior Team. I realize I’m not really going out on a limb with this prediction, however, the fact that the Otters will be McDavidless and the increased role that Dylan Strome will play this season make him a prospect with which to keep an extra close eye on. And if he can produce another 100+ point season, take the Erie Otters on a lengthy playoff run, and effectively contribute to a Canadian WJC medal, then maybe, just maybe, by the end of the season you will read an article or analysis on Dylan Strome that doesn’t mention Connor McDavid.