Ryan Strome has been a key player in 2021

This past offseason, there was a lot of talk about offloading Ryan Strome’s contract.

The Rangers acquired Strome in 2018 from the Oilers in exchange for Ryan Spooner. The trade for Strome added  depth at the center position, an area where the Rangers have struggled to find lasting talent over the years.

In his first full season on the roster, Strome put up some of the best numbers in his career. Many chalked up Strome’s career high 59 points (18g, 41a) in 70 games to be a result of playing alongside Artemi Panarin, who recorded 95 points in 69 games in 2019-20.

While last summer may have been a good time for Jeff Gorton to try and sell high, Strome has turned out to be even more important for the Rangers this season. Through the 21 games played, Strome has tallied six goals and nine assists for 15 points. He has been the most consistent center and has helped to keep production in the top six afloat despite the absence of some key players.

The scenario

Strome started off 2021 similar as the rest of the Rangers roster — on the slower side offensively. But in the games where the Rangers have managed to convert, Strome has been in the thick of things.

Early in the season, he and Panarin were joined on the second line by sophomore Kaapo Kakko. In the 10 games this line managed to remain intact for this season, the three had solid numbers generating a Corsi For per 60 of 54.33 and a goals for per 60 of 3.11.

In his first 14 games with Panarin, Strome recorded four goals and two assists and went pointless in nine contests.

With Panarin taking a leave from the Rangers and with Kakko bouncing on and off COVID protocol list, David Quinn had to change up the second line. In addition to this, there has been even more pressure mounting on Strome based on what’s going on at the center position.

Mika Zibanejad is in a complete offensive drought this season. While he still gets the time on ice, this is a key contributor to the Rangers’ success in seasons past who has been out of commission. Add to this an upper body injury that Filip Chytil suffered. His absence for five weeks left Strome essentially alone at center.

But he has handled what’s been thrown at him — stepped up in the burden even. Especially since joining forces with Chris Kreider and Colin Blackwell. Kreider has been on a roll lately, recording two hat tricks in eight days and a total 10 points in the last seven games.

Feeding off this energy, Strome has recorded nine points (2g, 7a) with three multi-point games and has gone just two games without a point. So far, it looks like Ryan Strome has been worth that contract and worth holding on to.

Final thoughts

There have certainly been some off games – and missed some wide open nets – for Strome this season, but it is all part of The Beautiful Game. For as much grief as the fan base can give Strome, he has truly been one of the most quietly consistent players for the Rangers this year. And he has done so under this aforementioned pressure.

Strome is a veteran — especially when compared to some of his teammates — but taking on roles like the one he has in 2021 is never easy. Even more so in unprecedented years like this one.

With Quinn landing on lines that seem to be generating and with the performance of the Kreider-Strome-Blackwell line in the last seven games, things are looking up.

I guess Strome’s production wasn’t just because Panarin all along.