Isles Hockey: Remembering Niederreiter as Strome sent down
Added by Joey Delgado on October 2, 2013.
Ryan Strome will begin the season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
It didn’t matter that El Niño was on another team’s roster.
On a day when names were the game for Islander fans, the nom de plum receiving the lion’s share of attention belonged to a former Islander.
Twenty-three names appeared on the opening-day roster that the Islanders released Monday, effectively ending all speculation as to who would make the club. And despite now being a member of the Minnesota Wild, Nino Niederreiter’s name still was thrown into the discussion.
The actual debate, of course, is over the omission of 20-year-old center Ryan Strome, who will now begin life as a professional athlete at AHL affiliate Bridgeport. The Isles’ decision to send him down was both praised and panned on the team’s official Facebook page and on other blogs and websites as fans recalled the not-so-distant story of Niederreiter and his struggles.
Video link: http://youtu.be/kSCYpLJofBI
Strome was drafted fifth overall in 2011, after racking up 106 points in 65 games in the Ontario Hockey League that year. That impressive collection was third-best in the scoring race – two points ahead of Nail Yakupov, who was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers the very next year. Yakupov’s impressive rookie campaign last season only strengthens the arguments posted by fans who wanted to see Strome play in the Islanders’ season-opener Friday night in New Jersey.
Strome appeared to be making an impact during the preseason and training camp. The Ottawa radio broadcast team, according to Islanders statistician extraordinaire Eric Hornick, gave Strome the No. 1 star during its matchup Sunday night, in which he had an even-strength goal (http://nyisl.es/plltp) and a power play assist (http://nyisl.es/pllAG). The broadcast even went so far as to call Strome “the strongest player on the ice.”
Islanders captain John Tavares also noted the strides that Strome had been making at practice last week.
“Stromey’s come a long way,” Tavares said. “Ever since we drafted him, since I got to know Ryan, he’s really developed. And he’s right there, pushing for a spot. And whether it’s now or in a short period of time, he’s going to be an impact player for us.”
It certainly won’t be now as Islander fans and writers compared Strome’s situation to the team’s handling of Niederreiter – another high draft pick who the Islanders kept in Bridgeport before eventually trading the power forward.
In Niederreiter’s case, the winger actually did spend a fair amount of time with the big club in 2011-12 when he appeared in 55 games. But he failed to make a consistent impact and his ice time reflected that (10:07 average); he spent much of the time on the fourth line as he seemed to struggle with the pace of the pro game. He wound up spending all of last year in Bridgeport and reportedly made a trade request that the Isles eventually accommodated this summer, bringing in forward Cal Clutterbuck in the exchange.
Strome appears to be a very different personality than Niederreiter, who was developing a reputation for being temperamental. For Tavares, it’s the professionalism that Strome has shown so far that has impressed him the most.
“I think he’s starting to understand the commitment it takes on and off the ice,” Tavares said. “The important things away from the rink and taking care of yourself and staying fresh and working toward being a consistent player. A lot of this is taking care of your body. You know, maintenance things and nutrition stuff.
“So he’s really come a long way that way and he’s asked a lot of questions and been really open-minded. And he’s pushing himself more and more every year.”
Tavares is someone who would know a little something about being a professional and taking it seriously. Since being drafted first overall by the Isles in 2009, the star center has improved his productivity and impact every year. All with a serious demeanor and a steely focus on the job at hand.
Not a bad guy to impress.
DEFENSE: Islanders D Matt Donovan made the successful transition from minor league to pro league when his name was added to the opening-day roster. Donovan had a strong camp, exhibiting the impressive puck-handling skills that he used to score a whopping 93 points in 2 seasons with the Sound Tigers. Expect a lot of power play opportunity for Donovan early on … Say farewell to veteran Radek Martinek for possibly the last time as an NHL player. Martinek, 37, put in some good, strong years for the Islanders. At his peak, he was a reliable, smart player who was constantly in position and who often was the team’s most dependable blueliner. His jersey won’t be retired, but Islander fans have every reason to respect the body of work he produced in 473 career games wearing the orange and blue.
OFFENSE: The right wing position on the big line seems to the only other spot open for serious debate. New acquisition Pierre-Marc Bouchard started camp as the favorite and seemed well on the way to solidifying the position and giving Tavares a potential big gun to work with him and LW Matt Moulson. After a quick start in camp, the line grew cold and Coach Jack Capuano broke it up. Now it looks like Capuano is bringing back either Josh Bailey or Kyle Okposo, who have both skated on the right side of Tavares for varying lengths of time through the years. Not much new in that sense, but Bailey does appear to be developing more of a shoot-first mentality lately, while Okposo hasn’t really played that spot in peak shape due to injury. Tavares also wasn’t the dominant force then that he is now, so it’s possible that Okposo may be more effective in that role this time around. Still, no matter who starts in that area of the ice Friday night, expect Bouchard to get another look there.