The Future is now for Ryan Strome
This week The Journey looks at John Gaudreau and Ryan Strome
In my inaugural prospect post for 'The Journey' we take a look at two players who will be on the tip of everyone's tongues within the next year or two, no exceptions. This is John Gaudreau and Ryan Strome.
First up is possibly the best college player in the last decade, Boston College's John Gaudreau.
Rights: Calgary Flames
Drafted in the 4th round (104th overall) in 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
LW, 5' 8", 150lbs
Hometown: Carney's Point, NJ, USA
John Gaudreau, better known as "Johnny Hockey" among Boston College fans, will in my opinion turn out to be the steal of the 2011 draft. Gaudreau is small in stature but what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in skill. Eagles players have been quoted saying that opposing teams try to "kill" Johnny because he's little but they find out quickly that they either can't catch him or are simply unable to stop the pocket full of dynamite. Some of the best playmaking and vision seen in recent memory have led Gaudreau to 172 points (77 goals) in 118 regular season games. Those of you that follow college hockey know just how great a feat that is.
Not only has Johnny been named New England's MVP and Most Valuable Forward for two years running but he has also just been nominated to the Hobey Hat trick (The top three Hobey Baker finalists) for the second straight season and in his second time through, he is the odds on favorite to win the coveted Hobey Baker Award (Given to the top player in the country). Oh, did I mention that this decorated athlete is only a junior at BC?
Junior Johnny Gaudreau
That's right, the "steal" of the 2011 NHL draft, a potential top line NHL playmaker and one of the best players in US college hockey memory still has another year to go in order to graduate. Let's put that in perspective, Phil Kessel is currently the top scoring NHL player (3rd in league scoring) to have played in the NCAA. When Kessel played for the U of Minnesota he scored at a clip of 1.3 points per game. Patrick Sharp (currently 8th in NHL scoring) scored 0.8 points per game while at the University of Vermont. Kyle Okposo (University of Minnesota) punched out 0.9 points per game. Blake Wheeler, (U of M as well) had 0.8 points per game and just for good measure, shootout phenom, T.J. Oshie (U of North Dakota) scored 1.1 points per game while roaming the ice sheets of the NCAA. Of those five players, four were first round picks, three of which were in the top seven overall. Only Patrick Sharp was a later pick and he went in the third round. All five are currently in the top 35 in NHL scoring. In case you haven't yet done the math, Johnny Gaudreau is scoring at 1.5 points per game pace. Did I mention the Flames drafted him 105th overall in the fourth round?
Giant Johnny Gaudreau
Some say there is question he can compete in the NHL because of his size. He has seemed to do pretty well in college and he surely isn't a giant among peers there. Sure, I guess you could say Kessel and Okposo tower in at 6 feet tall and Oshie dwarfs Gaudreau's 5'8" frame at 5'11" (can you sense my sarcasm). Let me ask you, if any of those guys were a couple inches shorter do you think it would greatly impact their production? I'd venture to say no it wouldn't. Johnny shows no fear and uses superb vision to get his small form into the right areas.
Fantasy Johnny Gaudreau
My advice for fantasy owners is to closely watch the news surrounding the 21-year-old spitfire over the next couple weeks. The BC Eagles are set to play in the NCAA Frozen Four starting next week and upon conclusion of the season Gaudreau will undoubtedly have a decision to make. The Flames own his rights until summer of 2015 but they will unquestionably offer him an entry level contract before his skates are dry this month. They won't want to risk losing him as a UFA at the conclusion of next season. You may remember this is how Justin Schultz landed in an Oilers jersey rather than sporting the Ducks logo. Word is Johnny's mother is pushing for him to finish school and graduate while his father is thought to be pulling in the other direction and wants his son to go pro. The next little while will be very interesting for the both Gaudreau and the Flames organization.
If he does decide to sign with the Flames, he should be near the top of your draft in keeper leagues. Don't expect Sidney Crosby out of the gate but given a little time, Kessel numbers are not out of reach. He will be in the perfect situation on a rebuilding Flames squad.
Gaudreau also suited up for his country in the 2012-13 WJC. He posted seven goals and nine points in the seven USA games and tied for fifth in tournament scoring.
Top line upside – 1-2 years from relevance (3 years tops).
Next up on 'The Journey' is New York Islanders top prospect, Ryan Strome.
Rights: NY Islanders
Drafted in the 1st round 5th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
C, 6'0", 183lbs
Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Strome to the Dogs
Ryan Strome was drafted 8th overall by the Barrie Colts in the 2009 OHL Draft. At 16-years-old Strome had totaled 14 points in 34 games when Barrie dealt him and a boat-load of assets to the Niagara IceDogs for a package that included future St Louis Blues rear-guard and Dogs captain, Alex Pietrangelo. Strome would become part of an elite core of 16-year-olds that included Boston's Dougie Hamilton as the IceDogs put their stamp on the future.
It didn't take long for Strome to take hold in his new jersey. In his second year in the league and first full season as a Dog he scored 106 points (33 goals) in 65 games. That was good for third in the OHL in both assists and points. The Islanders made him their first round pick that summer.
Strome Still a Dog
The Islanders sent Strome back to Niagara for a third OHL season in 2011-12 after signing his 3 year entry level contract and despite suffering through an injury he didn't disappoint. Strome would post 68 points in 46 OHL games with a whopping plus-37 and help push the IceDogs to a finals appearance against the London Knights. During the playoffs Strome was clutch as he posted 23 points in 20 games. Although it wasn't meant-to-be for the Dogs, Strome did taste victory of the bronze medal type when he dominated the WJC for Canada with nine points in six games.
Strome would spend one more year with Niagara and was named their captain. He scored 94 points and a career high, 34 goals in 53 games. He also turned in a finely tuned plus-43 but the Dogs were ousted in the first round of the playoffs versus Oshawa. Strome headed to join the Isles AHL farm team in Bridgeport where he racked up seven points in 10 games. It was starting to look like Mr S. was only a hair away from an NHL career.
Too Good for the 'A'
Strome missed the cut during the Islanders training camp and started his professional career as a rookie in the AHL. It didn't take long for him to set himself apart from the pack. Paired with a promising rookie straight out of college named Anders Lee, Strome would romp his way to 49 points in 37 AHL games. He was called up to the Islanders amidst the run but with the Olympic break approaching, Strome was nearing his maximum NHL games-played limit before having to clear waivers to be sent back to the minors. The NHL was shutting down during the Olympics and the Isles wanted to make sure Strome could continue to play during the break. He was returned to the Sound Tigers to prevent a waiver situation. It was at the point that he was clearly head and shoulders ahead of the other players in the AHL when the young center pulled on an AHL All-star jersey to represent the league in an All-star classic against Farjestad BK of the Swedish Elite league. Strome netted two goals with a plus-1 as the AHL All-stars routed the Swedes 7-2.
NHL and Don't Look Back
At the end of the Olympic Break Strome and the entire first line of the Sound Tigers got recalled to the big club. He settled in as the third-line center on an Islanders team that was now playing without its leader. Tavares suffered a season ending knee injury playing for Canada in the Olympic Games. Most speculated that this would mean Strome would slot into the number two center position but the Isles seemed determined to have him continue to break into the league slowly. When Anders Lee began to emerge offensively, he moved up the lineup and left Strome with checkers on either side. This was interesting as well because you could now plainly see that Strome does what elite NHL stars do, he makes his line-mates better. Through 31 games in his NHL rookie season, Strome has now scored 16 points. That works out to about 0.5 points per game. It's his lowest point per game production in any league since he posted 0.4 points per game in his OHL rookie season. The next year he vaulted to 1.6 PPG. Strome needs to get comfortable.
There is no question what-so-ever that Strome is the future second line pivot for the Isles. He will even possibly see time on a top power-play unit at times. The question is when? With his strong defensive gifts and his stellar offensive abilities, Strome is in a position to play in all situations. This makes him even more valuable to your fantasy teams. He has even shown a tendency to put up penalty minutes from time to time so grouped in with his scoring touch, playmaking ability and reliable plus/minus statistics, Strome will likely be one of the most sought after rookies in the game. You should treat him as such and pull out all the stops to add the youngster to your keeper. Greatness is just around the corner and if history is any indication, the corner could be very close.
Because of Tavares, Strome has second line upside but if moved to the wing he could easily play top line minutes (although this is not in the plans). Look for him to win the second pivot spot by mid to late season in 2014-15, if he doesn't win it straight out of camp. He will produce decent numbers for you in the coming year but will be a 'must start' by 2015-16. Plan accordingly.
Brad Wilson – @TALKwillie
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