Who Do We Have With Matthew Strome?
Matthew Strome has played a critical role on the Hamilton Bulldogs roster since January 2016. The first player selected by the Ontario Hockey League’s edition of the franchise, Strome has become a household name throughout the city. Detractors will point to the fact that he carries a pretty famous name thanks to his older brother’s standout contributions to Hockey Canada. Matthew Strome has made it his mission to make a name for himself thoughout his young hockey career, and he has the tenacity to ensure he won’t be forgotten.
- NHL Central Scouting:
- Midterm – #19
- Final – #33
- Future Considerations: #29
- Bob McKenzie – TSN:
- Midterm – #29
- Final – #59
- Craig Button – TSN: #44
- ISS Hockey: #58
- McKeen’s Hockey: #56
- Ryan Kennedy – The Hockey News: #47
- DraftAnalyst.com: #79
Look up consistency in the dictionary, and you’ll find Strome’s season splits. In December, he went four games without a goal (Luff and Petti were both injured), and five games without a goal in March. Aside from those two small stretches, Strome didnt’ go through significant periods of offensive stagnation. His second half was marginally better when you consider an uptick in shots per game from 2.6 to 2.9 S/GP. He finished 19th in goal scored on the season, and of the Ontario Hockey League players who scored more, only Suzuki, Robertson and Tippet are younger than him.
— Dhiren Mahiban (@dcmahiban) June 3, 2017
To be honest with you, I’m getting tired of the skating narrative with Matt Strome. He can flat out play , can score , high IQ ..
— Steve Clark (@SteveClarkMedia) May 22, 2017
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) April 3, 2017
- Future Considerations: “an offensively creative winger…not a bad skater, but should improve his skating and speed during his time in the OHL…has the ability and creativity to deke defenders and make them look silly…a strong puck-distributor who should use his shot more often as it also has some zip to it…plays hard in all three zones and will also assume defensive responsibilities…excellent hand-eye coordination as he bats down pucks and controls them in one swift motion.“ (Snippet from their scouting report, there are more details in their PDF product)
- Ryan Yessie – HockeyProspect.com: “The thing about Strome is he’s got great upside, he’s got size, he’s got offensive potential, the upside is absolutely there. He shows skill with the puck but one of the things I’ve notice about him is he’s got to make the play quickly because he tries to over-handle the puck, he gets stripped, somebody will take the puck from him, there will be a turn over. One of the things that concerns me…was his pace, the pace in which he plays the game. When the game speeds up, he doesn’t really have that quickness to get up and down the ice very much…it’s not something that’s going to crush him, but his pace does need to improve, and his skating needs to improve and I think I’d like to see his puck control improve a little more. He’s got the shot, he’s got the offense, he’s got the size to potentially be ‘that guy’ but I’d like to see him round out his game a little bit more”. (Interview with Guy Flaming on The Pipeline Show – Source)
- Brock Otten – OHL Prospects: “While his top end speed may not have improved, his overall agility and balance definitely have…He has his brothers’ elite vision and playmaking ability, but he plays much more of a North/South power game than either Ryan or Dylan do….He’s at his best when he’s physically aggressive, throwing his body around in the corners and driving the net with authority. He can be a tough player to stop then because of how soft his hands are and because of how smart he is. He sees the ice exceptionally well. But this disappears from his game at times and it limits his effectiveness because when he’s not aggressive and using his size to slow the game down, his deficiencies in the skating department become evident.” (Source)
- Mike Morreale – NHL.com: “Matthew is more grittier than his two older brothers. He’ll move into the corners, make or take a hit and get to the front of the net for loose pucks. He’s a prototypical power forward with good finishing ability. The one knock has been his skating but he’s been working extremely hard to improve that area of his game.” (Source)
- Dan Marr– NHL Central Scouting: “Matthew is one of the strongest players down low, protecting and cycling the puck. He’s got excellent hockey IQ and knows how to get open. He’s always going to be a scoring threat and he’s a proven finisher.” (Source)
- Curtis Joe – Elite Prospects: “A big, skilled winger that plays a complete and consistent game. Battles hard for puck possession and is relentless on both the power play and penalty kill. Plays a hard-nosed game and uses his size to establish his presence around the net. Has good hands, an accurate shot, and zero compromise hockey sense. His skating and overall balance off the rush and in-transition is a work in progress that is continuing to get better by the day. That being said, his vision is excellent and his offensive talent is apparent; he is able to play at a fast pace. Being able to keep up is a big part of that, and, moving forward, he has the potential to develop into a strong two-way winger that is hard to play against and can be relied on in all situations“. (Source)
- Brendan Ross – TheScout.ca: “There’s no denying that Strome has next level abilities but I am slightly more hesitant on the Bulldogs forward. He’s a very smart player who reads the ice very well but his skating leaves a lot to be desired and while it’s an area that can be improved easier than others, it still concerns me heading into the next level. He’s a player who excels as a playmaker and can execute highly difficult plays but whenever I watch him, he never has the puck as much as I’d want.” (Source)
- Joyce Gare (relaying a scout’s opinion) – Sportsnet: “I just don’t know if he’s a prospect at the next level for me or just a really good junior whose skating keeps him out of the league….[His skating is] technically it’s sort of painful to watch. He has a short, choppy stride. It’s not clear how much you can improve it with added strength and physical maturity.” (Source)
One noteworthy statistic was his shooting percentage spiked upwards to 18.78%, up from 14.5% in his rookie season. There are a few possible answers as to why he contains such a high shooting percentage early in his career. Strome has incredible hand-eye coordination, making him very dangerous in tight around the crease. When you combine his puck skills with his size and doggedness in high traffic areas, you’re gifted with a player reminiscent of Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom.
Strome often receives criticism about his skating. It is the area of his game that he most needs to improve. This is something he is capable of; he has vastly improved his speed and balance since breaking into the OHL as an under-age player. Something to pay attention to is that his lack of speed seemed to contribute to his scoring success. Often, his linemates draw defenders to themselves with their speed. This leaves Strome with the opportunity to find dangerous scoring areas with plenty of open space. He knows exactly where he can slide into the play undetected. Primarily playing with Luff, Petti and Bitten has allowed him to become a stealthy opportunist.
One curious thing about Strome’s season was his usage on the power play. Strome was played often as a defender on the primary power play, which is a little surprising. In 2015/16, he showed substantial ability below the hashmarks, distributing the puck to forwards in tight, and out-powering defenders to collect loose pucks. He lacks a cannon that can drive the puck to the net and cause havoc for goalies, and relied on his passing ability from the blue line. While on the point, he tended to defer shooting options to either Lemcke or Gleason on the point, which was rather predictable.
Where will he go?
Strome began the season as an early candidate to be selected in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Despite his regular season and playoff success, leading the team offensively from the first line, Strome wasn’t able to showcase his offensive abilities during international play at the Ivan Hlinka and the IIHF U18s this spring. Strome was relied upon as a leader for Team Canada, and the team preformed poorly in both tournaments. These are premier events for NHL scouts, and this might be what keeps him from hearing his name selected in the first round.
Regardless, being selected by an NHL team is an honour for any young man, and 5 years from now there may very well be articles about how he was a sleeper in the draft. Due to the vast amount of picks that the Vegas Golden Knights seem to have been acquiring, I’m going to predict they will be comfortable taking a ‘risk’ on Strome early in the second round. His last name will be a strong marketing tool for the new franchise.
The 2017 NHL Draft Series
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- Who Do We Have With Kaden Fulcher
- Who Do We Have With Marian Studenič
Feature Image: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator