Much like his good buddy Alex DeBrincat, the 23-year-old Strome did not have the 2019-20 campaign he was looking for.
After failing to find much success in his first three short NHL stints with the Arizona Coyotes, the team that selected him No. 3 overall in 2015, young forward Dylan Strome was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks along with Brendan Perlini in exchange for Nick Schmaltz on Nov. 25, 2018. At the time, the trade was highly risky for both parties involved, as Schmaltz and Strome each were struggling to produce consistently at the NHL level. Schmaltz, the Blackhawks first-round (20th overall) selection in 2014, got off to a poor start in 2018-19 with just two goals and nine assists in the team’s opening 23 games. As for Strome, he was only able to muster up three goals and three assists in the Coyotes’ first 20 contests. In 48 total NHL games across three years in Arizona, Strome recorded just seven goals and nine assists for 16 points and was starting to be looked at as a potential bust.
The change of scenery turned out to be exactly what Strome needed, as he went on to have a much better season in Chicago than he was on track for in the desert. In 58 games with the Blackhawks, the Mississauga, Ontario native tallied 51 points (17G, 34A) while skating mostly on the team’s second like with Patrick Kane and former junior hockey teammate Alex DeBrincat. It had appeared that the Hawks finally found their future second-line center to play with the superstar Kane.
Unfortunately, Strome was not able to continue to produce at his near point-per-game pace in 2019-20, as he never truly looked like the same player from the year before. Strome played in 58 games for the second consecutive year, but this time around, he only recorded 12 goals and 26 assists for 38 points. That is a 13-point drop off from last season, which is not what he nor the Blackhawks were hoping for.
Strome also saw a significant drop in a few other statistical categories, such as even-strength goals (14 in 2018-19, 10 in 2019-20), shooting percentage (16.2% in 2018-19, 12.4% in 2019-20), total shot attempts (167 in 2018-19, 147 in 2019-20) and average time on ice (17:04 in 2018-19, 15:56 in 2019-20). The only area where Strome improved this season was in the faceoff department, as he increased his win percentage by nearly three percent (44.9% in 2018-19, 47.7% in 2019-20).
Despite the struggles, Strome’s possession numbers were surprisingly better than they were last year for the most part. His Corsi percentage made a significant jump closer to the 50-percent mark (49.7 CF%), and he was on the ice for 40 goals for to 35 against at even strength. But in his 58 games a year ago, Strome was on the ice for 61 goals for at even strength. Whether or not that 21-goal difference is his fault, the Blackhawks simply need him to produce more to be successful as a team.
Strome’s 2019-20 campaign got off to a promising start actually, as he was on pace for a 61-point season with 10 goals and 20 assists in the opening 40 games. But on Jan. 7 against the Calgary Flames, the young forward suffered a gruesome-looking leg injury while falling to the ice. Thankfully, the injury was not as severe as it originally appeared, but Strome was never able to regain the momentum he had in the first half with only eight points (2G, 6A) in his final 18 contests.
Strome had four three-point games in 2019-20, but his top performance this season was probably Mar. 3 against the Anaheim Ducks. In a much-needed win at the United Center down the stretch, Strome scored the only two goals of his second half and also picked up an assist in just 13:59 time on ice. He tallied a team-high five shots on goal and won seven of his 13 faceoffs as well.
All in all, Strome did not have the best second full-time NHL season, but a lot of that could be because of head coach Jeremy Colliton’s peculiar lineup decisions. The second-year NHL coach decided to switch Strome from center to wing mid-way through the year, a move that never paid off and only seemed to cause more problems. Colliton also was reluctant to pair Strome with DeBrincat as much as he did in 2018-19, which never made a whole lot of sense. If the Blackhawks best-of-five play-in series vs. the Edmonton Oilers does come to fruition in the next month or so, then for both Strome and the team’s sake, Colliton should load up the second line with the DeBrincat-Strome-Kane trio to try and keep up with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
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