While they still have a long way to go before they can compete with the Sutters as the premiere hockey family, the Stromes are well on their way to making a name for themselves, with a third brother entering the NHL draft in six years. Unlike brothers Ryan and Dylan, however, Matthew Strome isn’t expected to go in the top five in this year’s draft, and it’s quite likely he may not even go in the first round. That doesn’t mean that Matthew isn’t a legitimate prospect, however, as he possesses a number of attributes that are coveted by NHL general managers at the draft table.
- Age: 18 – January 6th, 1999
- Birthplace: Mississauga, ON, CAN
- Frame: 6’3″ / 2o1 lbs
- Position: LW
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
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.
“Brother of Dylan and Ryan, he is 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”
Jeff Marek, Sportsnet:
Such a smart player whose main calling card is his high-end hockey sense. He’s never been the best skater, but always produces. Loaded with potential.
A famous last name can be both a blessing and a curse. Some players (we’re looking at you, Brandon Sutter,) are able to leverage a name into years of undeserved praise and financial compensation. Others have to deal with the constant pressure to live up to a superior relative, and struggle to be appreciated in their own right. I lean towards the latter camp when it comes to Matthew Strome, but whichever team selects him shouldn’t be taking his name into account. Matthew, for better or for worse, is not his brothers, and they are not him.
The consensus from scouts seems to be that the younger Strome has a level of hockey sense and creativity that’s roughly comparable to that of his brothers, but he’s still a step below where they were in their respective draft years. Strome’s play draws mainly good reviews from scouts but there’s one glaring issue that’s keeping them away: his skating. In a piece for Sportsnet in November, Gare Joyce spoke to an anonymous scout who succinctly laid out the case against drafting Strome:
“Seeing him three times [this season], 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 brother [Dylan] wasn’t a great skater in his draft year, but you had a sense that it was just a matter of strength—if he put the work in, then it was going to improve, which is exactly what happened in the season after his draft year, a big step up.
“Skating didn’t become a strength [for Dylan], but it stopped being a real issue. But [Matthew] has a whole other problem. 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.”
I’d be curious to hear if that scout feels the same way now that he did in November, but his observations check out. He has no issues keeping up at this level, mainly due to his intelligence, but visually he’s concerning. Where Strome differs from some of his peers who struggle with their skating is that this isn’t simply an issue of getting stronger or faster. For Strome’s skating to improve, it’s likely he’d need to completely overhaul his technique. That’s a big risk for a team to take on in the first round.
That may not be completely necessary, however. There have always been a handful of players that are able to overcome their skating ability and be valuable contributors. While it’s abundantly clear that speed kills in today’s NHL, we can always run the risk of overvaluing it, even when all signs point to player being able to overcome it through other attributes. That’s how you end up with a player like Jonathan Marchessault going from an unqualified restricted free agent to a 31-goal scorer in the span of one season.
In Strome’s case, it’s very possible that the other areas of his game have the potential to make up for his weak skating. He has tremendous puck skills, showing equal proficiency in playmaking and goal-scoring, and he can deke out defenders and goaltenders with relative ease. This creativity allows him to be a much better player in transition than you’d expect a player with skating issues to be. He also has height and weight advantages on his brothers, even at just 18, and he uses it to his advantage, especially in and around the net. He’s hard to knock off the puck, which is exactly what you want to see from a player that doesn’t exactly have speed to burn.
Defensively, Strome can struggle to get back but is positionally sound and plays well in all three zones. The OHL doesn’t keep a good record of penalty killing data but Strome was entrusted with big minutes on both special teams and always appeared up to the task.
Strome wasn’t a high-end producer of offense this year, but watching him you get the sense that he absolutely would have been if he only could have got to his targets a little quicker. pGPS backs this up, as Strome carries an expected success percentage of 30.2%, with his most likely career assignment being a third-line winger. Like many players in his point range, however, the range of outcomes for Strome is very large, whose statistical cohorts include a few legitimate first-line players as well as a number of depth wingers.