On Ryan Strome’s hot start, and if it’s sustainable

NY Rangers center has 14 points in 14 games

A former top-five pick, Ryan Strome has been a player to watch lately for the Rangers. After shooting north of 20% when the Rangers and Oilers swapped Ryan’s, the general consensus was that Strome, who set a career high in goals last season, should be sold high. The underlying possession numbers weren’t good and shooting percentage almost always regresses, Michael Grabner notwithstanding.

The Rangers clearly did not want to move on from Strome, instead trading Jimmy Vesey and Vlad Namestnikov to ensure space on the roster for Strome. The 26 year old has responded with a 5-9-14 line in 14 games, second on the team in scoring, while playing top line minutes with Artemi Panarin. He’s only been held off the scoresheet four times this season.

Clearly Strome is clicking with Panarin. The rub on Strome was that despite his high draft status, he needed someone else to create the offense for him. He still does, but Panarin creates enough offense for everyone, which is why you pay him $11 million. He just needs players that are skilled –which Strome is– and can take advantage of Panarin’s presence. Strome has excelled in this role so far. If he continues to put up points, there won’t be any complaints about where he plays.

Now Strome is far from perfect. He did look lost when not with Panarin. He’s awful away from the puck, although every single Ranger has bad possession numbers. It’s to the point where he actually is off-the-charts bad defensively.

The good thing here is that, as mentioned, he’s able to consistently produce offense with Panarin. Defensively a nightmare, but offensively producing and putting up good expected-goals-for numbers. We see this in his shot heatmaps as well.

This is still a significant improvement on last year, when offensively he was a -8% influence while on the ice. That’s a 21% swing in one season! The last interesting thing I want to point out is how teammates perform with/without him on the ice.

This is a little difficult to read, but the general gist is that Strome positively impacts shots for but is a major drag on shots against. What I found to be very interesting was that the Panarin effect isn’t as big as I thought. Of course Strome is worse off without Panarin on his line, you didn’t need me to tell you that, but the magnitude is far less than I thought. Suffice it to say, Strome is holding his own offensively.

This brings us back to the original concern, shooting percentage. He’s shooting 21.7% right now, more than double his career average of 10.3%. Generally speaking, SH% isn’t repeatable, so we look at expected-goals to see how big of a regression is coming.

However for Strome, he’s seen a huge increase in those expected-goals numbers. Last year he was bottom-five on the team in generating offense. This year his xGF/60 of 2.55 is top-five on the team. So while we should expect the SH% to come down and the goals to dry up, he should still be able to keep his head above water, at least offensively, and only if he remains glued to Panarin’s hip.

Dare I say that there’s a chance Strome’s production is somewhat sustainable this year? I’m going against the grain on this, but the xGF/60 numbers are there to support this. If it looks good on the ice and looks good –comparatively to the train wreck that is the Rangers this year– then it must be good.

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  • Strome has developed a real knack for being in the right place at the right time offensively. A player a skilled as Panarin absolutely increases the number of right times and places his line mates are going to see. Ergo, Strome and Panarin are an effective pairing, at least offensively. Nothing wrong with that. Defensively, well, it’s a different story.

  • Strome was as you mentioned a high draft pick and he has all the required puck skills to be a productive hockey player. He put up decent numbers for the Fishsticks before being moved to the Oil. There is good chemistry between him and Bread and that is sustainable. Should he be moved to the 3rd line and play with Lemieux, Howden, Fast or Andersson his numbers would likely diminish. However, his skill level will still be there and he is a good asset to have on any club.

  • Let him be this years Michael Grabner. Shoots well above his career average then we trade him at the deadline and he does absolutely nothing With his new team for the last quarter of the season.

    • That is because the Devils apparently had no clue how to use Grabner. Grabs is shooting 15% with the Yutes this year. He suffered a horrific facial injury last season, it is great to see that he has recovered.

  • Spot on comments on Strome. He always had that potential, now he is getting the playing time and has confidence! I wish I can say the same about Anderson. I feel it’s time to cut the bait here. He was the 7th overall pick, guy shows nowhere near the talent to justify that high of a pick. Looks like a career 3rd line center in the AHL. Team is and will continue to be in a learning curve for the rest of the year. Patience required. I am a little enveous of the Islanders success. But then again when you put Lou Lamerillo and Barry Trotz together you get amazing results.

  • I can see Strome being apart of this team until 2025. The Kreider stans won’t be happy with it but it is definitely a route that I could see this FO do. If the club wasn’t scared to announce to put Chytil on a semi permanent winger as they expressed through Brooks last winter than I see no reason why that would change for someone like Lias Andersson (if he last that long).
    Before stans cry about Kreider… Just remember a few things..
    1. They hardly tried to negotiate a new deal last spring or over the off season. Matter of fact, the club was cool by showing off to the media that there has been little to no serious contact spent with Kreider’s camp and the negotiation has gone next to nowhere.

    2. Kreider felt the love after they straight up replaced him with a better player on the top line last season.

    3. Than they took the worst route for a cap buyout in a important year for his camp to put a rush on things if NYC is a place that he would like stay around for the next 4-5 years. The team double down from that fantasy and paid Trouba 2.5-3 mill more in than Kreider would have gotten.

    4. The management spent all of 2017-18 season that poured into 1/2 of the 2018 season to work with Hayes camp. When they dang well knew that he was pricing himself off this team before 2019. FO could have used that time to entice Kreider’s camp to re-sign and come to a middle ground.

    5. You’re probably wondering where Kreider comes in on all of this? Strome can provide few tangible’s that Hayes was good at which was why there’s a blockade when you compare his contract year vs leading up to Kreider’s contract situation right now. Thus making Strome’s role that much more embedded for the future success for this team. Therefore it wouldn’t come with a shock to see Strome last with the NYR beyond this season.

  • So he shot 20% last year and it was called an aberration and not sustainable and yet he is shooting 20% again.

    At what point will his “expected” stats reflect this?

    • Agreed. The same was said about Mike Grabner, but his shooting % never dropped on the Rangers either. I think what is often missed is that deployment matters a great deal and how successful one is in netting their shots is a function of the context in which the player operates. Grabner was a perfect example, excelling in his role with the Rangers. Thus far the same has been true of Strome.

  • I’ve liked Strome since he first got traded to Rangers. If you remember he had a gazillion golden opportunities and breakaways his first 10-20 games and had little to show for it, but his puck luck changed during the rest of the season and he was a regular contributor down the stretch. After the weird schedule start this season he’s fit in quite nicely wherever they play him. He’s set up a bunch of goals with skilled passes and can bury the puck when needed to. I know he’s not the best player in the league or even team, but you need players who score and set up goals. Strome is a good fit for this team. I’d like to see him stay a few more years. I think he can take it to another level from here.

  • Strome’s “hot start” is not because of Strome, it’s because of Panarin. Panarin makes his linemates better. What a talent. BTW, not to brag about myself, I was the first one on this site to urge the NYR sign Panarin as a free agent.

  • Strome has gradually gained back his confidence, and was one of the Rangers best players from the second half of last year even before Panarin came. There was a reason he was a high draft pick and he has started to flourish in New York. He has a good skill-set, and can play a gritty game when needed. Definitely a good man to have on the team.

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