Have you ever heard of the Strome family?
By now, you probably have. Ryan Strome, a former World Junior star with Team Canada, cracked 50 points this season, his first full as an NHLer, as John Tavares’ line mate with the New York Islanders. In June, the middle brother, Dylan Strome, will most likely find himself called in the top five of the NHL Draft after succeeding with Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters.
Now, it’s time to welcome Matt Strome.
With the OHL Draft coming up, a ton of attention has been on some of the top prospects with the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA team. With names like Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Rick Nash taking their toll on the Greater Toronto Hockey League over the past few years, it’s no question that some of the world’s top prospects find themselves on the legendary roster at some point.
Just like his two brothers, Matt Strome spent his key minor hockey years playing with the Marlboros, also known as the “Marlies”. His Minor Midget career started off fairly strong in 2013-2014, scoring two goals in only game as an underaged forward playing against 15 and 16 year old prospects. This past season, Strome made the jump to being a full-time contributor with the Marlboros, scoring at ease all season long in a very important year for the young star. At the early season Toronto Titans Minor Midget Tournament, Strome finished with a five point performance in seven games, catching the eyes of scouts who may have missed out on him earlier in the year.
After then, Strome really grew into his own. Yes, the 16-year-old only finished fourth in scoring, but despite missing 10 games throughout the season, he managed to finish with 60 points in 64 contests. Paired up with some quality forwards such as Nicholas Pryce and Ryan McLeod, Strome and the Marlboros went on to win the GTHL league championships, defeating the Don Mills Flyers in game eight of an incredible playoff series. The victory made them the team to beat at the OHL Cup tournament in March, and just like with the GTHL final series, it would be Toronto and Don Mills battling it out to the wire for gold at the final Minor Midget tournament of the year.
Strome had a quietly successful OHL Cup. Heading into the final game, Strome had five assists, helping the team stay undefeated throughout the event. But one thing was missing: a goal. With Strome’s natural ability to find an open area in the net, it almost seemed surprising. That was, of course, until the game actually meant something. With three minutes remaining in regulation, Don Mills forward Jacob Tortora scored the huge tying goal to force the game into overtime, knotted at two goals apiece. If Strome was going to strike, it would have to be now. With 3:41 off the clock in the extra frame, Pryce sent the puck over to a streaking Strome in front of the net, who managed to tip the puck past Flyers goaltender Mathew Woroniuk on the ice to secure the gold medal, and, arguably, score the greatest goal of his life.
While maybe not as overly gifted compared to Dylan, there are many similar traits between the two. An incredible playmaker, Strome tends to make those around him much better by always setting his teammates up in the right spot. Along the boards, Strome doesn’t tend to lose a lot of battles, and at 6’3 and 183 lbs, there is no question as to why. The captain of the Marlboros seems to pick his battles correctly and wont rush to the net unless he really feels like he has a chance to put one past the opposing goaltender. When he gets into the front, he uses his body to create a distraction before potting one home, making him one of the more valuable power-forwards in the draft this year.
Despite his tremendous skill set, Strome just doesn’t have the same elite skill that McLeod or even Ben Jones posses. He does, however, offer up a very rounded game that will make him a solid bet to make an impact at the OHL level right away. Expect Strome to land with a team picking outside of the top ten at the OHL Draft, potentially placing him with a team that is more of a contender right away. If so, Strome’s value will likely only go up from here, making him an extremely solid prospect to watch prior to the 2017 NHL Draft.
Steven is a junior hockey reporter for the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and also focuses on international hockey for his website, TheHockeyHouse.net. You can follow Steven on twitter @StevenEllisNHL.
Photo from Alex D’Addese Photography