Today, we’re going to talk about Ryan Strome the 25-year old bottom-six forward, not Ryan Strome the 5th overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. That distinction is important to make when we’re setting expectations for the player the New York Rangers acquired.
When we’re evaluating a player like Strome, it’s crucial not to put too much stock into the slim chance that he will find the offensive upside that made him a coveted prospect nearly a decade ago. So, what has Strome done in the NHL, and what should we expect out of him playing for his third team in the last three years?
A Better Fit?
The Spooner for Strome trade made no impact on the Rangers’ salary cap because of the salary that the Rangers retained on Spooner. At first blush, the trade was a classic “change of scenery” deal. However, it is worth noting that Strome will be an RFA at the end of the 2019-20 season, and that he’s 18 months younger than Spooner. So, the Rangers did get younger as a result of the swap.
Ryan Strome traded for Ryan Spooner.— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 16, 2018
Spooner is the better shooter and has scored more but has some defensive weaknesses; Strome drives play a little better and is 18 months younger but has a rubbish penalty differential.
Spooner’s stock was crashing with his poor play this season, and with David Quinn behind the bench there was little hope for it recovering before trade deadline. It’s safe to say that the Gorton painted himself into a corner when he re-signed Spooner to a two-year, $8 million contract on July 31 when his value may have been higher after his finish to the 2017-18 season, and before the somewhat costly extension.
With Strome, the Rangers have a player who will likely fit better into Quinn’s system. He’s a versatile forward with a right-handed shot — which should prove valuable to the Rangers with their glut of left-handed forwards. Only Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast shoot right of the mainstay forwards in New York (recent call up Steven Fogarty also is a righty).
In his first six games with the Rangers we’ve seen Strome do some interesting things. He’s picked up three points — two of which were primary — at 5-on-5 and has not shied away from taking the body. He even dropped the gloves with Travis Konecny on the day after Thanksgiving. But that’s not exactly Strome’s game.
Strome is an average skater and a good passer with a solid shot. He was perceived to be a “cerebral” player by Oilers’ general manager Peter Chiarelli when he was acquired from the New York Islanders. But, unfortunately, he has a history of operating in the red in penalty differential.
Last season, his first in Edmonton, Strome showed some meaningful flashes of skill and finished fourth on the Oilers in primary points (19) during 5-on-5 hockey. At the end of the season he was just above average in terms of Corsi and expected goals with a 0.44 Rel CF% and a 0.47 xGF% on the Oilers. So, he wasn’t quite Jordan Eberle, but was solid enough playing on a bad hockey team.
Unfortunately for Strome, he had a really rocky start to the 2018-19 season. At the time of the trade, he had just two points in 18 games for the Oilers and was seeing a noteworthy drop in ice time. Through those 18 games though, his underlying numbers were encouraging as the Oilers were taking the majority of the shot share and scoring chance share with him on the ice, and both of those numbers were above average relative to the team.
With the Rangers, Strome has a -9.83 Rel CF% and a 104.9 PDO through six games. So, yeah, it might be premature to plan the “we won the trade” parade. He also has a -7.62 xGF% in 24 games this season, which is better than Spooner’s -10.06 xGF% this year, but is still bad. Very bad. Playing a lot of hockey with Milan Lucic didn’t do Strome’s numbers any favors in Edmonton and could have contributed to his lack of scoring, but he still has a significantly better track record of being in the green in the shot share than Spooner.
#NYR at even strength with Ryan Strome on the ice (via @EvolvingHockey)— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) November 27, 2018
Expected Goals For: 1.56
Expected Goals Against: 6.23
It's nice that he's produced some points recently and I do think there is upside. But let's not get deluded about his play compared to Ryan Spooner's.
Strome is also a higher-volume shooter than the forward the Rangers sent to Edmonton, and is a better defensive forward when it comes to shot suppression numbers. In other words, he’s a more complete player than Spooner. Interestingly enough, Ryan Stimson’s Player Traits and Performance Comparison Tool illustrates that Strome is also a strong passer, which is arguably Spooner’s greatest strength.
Strome is just young enough for talking heads to still call him a young player, even though he has over 360 games of NHL hockey under his belt. But remember, he’s over seven years removed from being a 5th overall pick. It’s possible that Strome will become something more than just a depth forward for the Rangers, but it is unlikely.
Thus far, Strome has been skating primarily with Brett Howden and Jimmy Vesey at 5-on-5. So, when the Rangers get healthy, we should expect Strome to be locked in as a bottom-six forward. In that role, he should be able to do some good, especially when compared to what we saw from Spooner this season. He may be able to help the Rangers’ struggling fourth line if he spends time there as well.
As the season progresses, we need to evaluate Strome on how he fills the role of a versatile, defensive bottom-six forward. In particular, we should look at what kind of impact he has playing with youngsters like Howden, and compare that to what we saw from Spooner and Cody McLeod. Hopefully, his numbers underlying numbers will improve in a meaningful way and Strome will earn Quinn’s trust in a way that Spooner was unable to do.
Data courtesy of naturalstattrick.com, Corsica.hockey, CapFriendly.com