Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Dylan Strome Should Be a Draft Target


Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Dylan Strome Should Be Draft Target

Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; A general view of the complete draft board after the completion of the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 11, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs fans cheer from the stands during the Maple Leafs

It is no secret that Connor McDavid is the best player in the NHL draft and if the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the odds in the draft lottery it would send Leafs Nation into a frenzy. However, Toronto do not have the best chance to land McDavid so they will have to prepare to pick either fourth or fifth, depending on how the lottery draft shapes up.

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A couple of prospects the Leafs will need to consider are Noah Hanifin and Mitch Marner. However, one player who should be high up on the list is Dylan Strome. Out of the three, Strome would solve the Leafs most glaring need: a true number one center, which they have been missing since Mats Sundin left town. What Strome has accomplished this season in the OHL has been a great story. In his second campaign with the Erie Otters, he captured the OHL scoring championship with 129 points in 68 games – a major jump from the 39 points he scored in 60 games last season. Not only did he double his point production, but he also did it behind McDavid as the second line center in Erie.

May 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) face off during the first period of game two of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously if McDavid did not get injured, he probably could have won the scoring title. However, during his absence Strome did not falter when he had to step up. He scored four goals and two assists in the final game of the regular season to capture the scoring title, which should not be overlooked. There are a lot of things to like about Strome; he has a big frame which is a major asset. He is a well-rounded two-way centreman, which makes him draw comparisons to Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews – not a bad thing. He trains with players like John Tavares, PK Subban, and Jason Spezza in the summer, so there probably will not be questions about his fitness. (God knows the Leafs fans have heard enough about that.) As an added bonus Strome grew up supporting the Leafs, which is nice to see. It would also make Don Cherry happy, not that this will influence the Leafs decision!

Mar 7, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) celebrates wit fans after scoring a goal during the first period against the Vancouver Canucks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

A player that Strome has been known to idolize is Joe Thornton, who has been a dominant centre for almost a decade. While Strome is not as big as Thornton (6.04, 220lbs) he once said in an interview that he likes how his idol can find players who are open and feed them the puck, while also being a great face-off man. That is not a bad player to make a comparison with, but one thing Strome will have to do is try bulk up so that he can be an effective player with and without the puck.

Strome is credited with having a good hockey IQ, which should be no surprise given his family’s involvement in hockey. His brother Ryan currently plays for the New York Islanders and his younger brother Matthew plays for the Toronto Marlboros and will probably be in the OHL soon. The NHL has seen its fair share of families make their way to the NHL; including Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin &  Jordan Staal, Eric Staal & Marc Staal and PK Subban, Malcolm Subban and Jordan Subban (Jordan is on his way). The Strome family has the potential to be just like that.

Sep 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips (4) defends against Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (62) at the Air Canada Centre. Ottawa defeated Toronto 4-3 in an overtime shoot-out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the season, the International Scout Service (ISS) ranked the Mississauga native ninth in their October draft ranking. Now he is ranked fourth overall by many scouts and analysts, which is where the Leafs are expected to pick this summer. If Strome is available it would be difficult for the Leafs to pass up on him, especially because the team does not have a reliable stud centreman. Many had hoped that Nazem Kadri would fill the void, but it is beginning to look like he is better suited in a second line center role. Meanwhile, Frederik Gauthier does not possess the elite offensive ability to make him that top centreman. With wingers like William Nylander, Connor Brown, Joshua Leivo, Andreas Johnson, and Brendan Leipsic the Leafs need to focus on stocking their prospect cupboard in other areas.

Apr 4, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) controls the puck while stopping during the third period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Of course the Leafs defence has been a problem this season and there is a lack of prospects with elite potential in the system. However, they are farther ahead with their defencemen then with their centremen. If they are patient with their defensive prospects, they can provide the necessary depth then find the over-the-top stud defenceman in future drafts. Morgan Rielly is going to be a good defenceman for the Leafs, but is he a Drew Doughty, Aaron Ekblad or Shea Weber?

That still remains to be seen, but there is not a centreman in the system who has the elite potential that Strome possesses. Now if the Buffalo Sabres do win the draft lottery, then the Edmonton Oilers will have the third overall pick and it is not set in stone whether they will pick Hanifin or Strome. Edmonton desperately need help on defence so it would be hard to see them pick another forward, but it is the Oilers.

Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; William Nylander puts on a team sweater after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs plan at the draft should be to pick the best player available and Mark Hunter was impressed with the last push by Strome to win the scoring title. It is hard to label Strome as a consolation prize, but if the Leafs do not get McDavid there should be no shame with that. The big decision if the Leafs draft Strome is whether they let him continue to play in the OHL or have him get a taste of NHL action. Given how things have worked out for the Oilers, who did not do that with their draft picks, it might be wise for the Leafs to be patient, which is what we have seen with prospects like Brown and Nylander.

Leafs fans should be prepared for whatever will come at the draft, but there is no doubt Strome is high up on the Leafs draft board. Hopefully he is ready to step out of McDavid’s shadow and be an integral part of an NHL team, whoever selects him. They also have the Nashville Predators first round pick. There will probably be more invested in scouting that pick, because after the top 10 it becomes wide open and the Leafs need to be prepared for whoever is available at that point.

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