Picture this… It’s Opening Night of next season. Kyle Davidson has spent all summer talking about how the Chicago Blackhawks don’t plan on rushing its new wave of prospects.
And then Lukas Reichel is C1.
Never mind that he has all of 4 NHL games of experience, most of which is on the wing, but he was also drafted as a wing. He’s been impressive in Rockford playing C, but there’s a major talent jump in the defensive responsibilities expected at the NHL level. Then you have to put up some points, because at C1 you’re playing with Kane and DeBrincat, and for new players, deferring to them is all too easy. That’s a future HHoFer and a 40 goal scorer, of course you’re going to do that.
Then there’s Dylan Strome. Dylan Strome, who, by all accounts, gets along just as well with Kane as he does with his hockey twin in DeBrincat. Dylan Strome, who’s proven to be really, really good at one of the hardest parts of the game - playing between two all-world talents without the pressure getting to him and putting up points. Dylan Strome, who’s proven this season to be alright at the dot and typically looking to take a shot on net.
Even at his QO, Strome isn’t an overpay. The going rate for a 50-ish point scoring 2C is north of $4m AAV. He’s been at that pace or better longer than he hasn’t been. He’s proven capable over this 30+ game stretch of jumping up to the top line when he’s with offensive players.
For the record, Strome has recorded 16 goals and 34 points in the 34 games since Jan 1st. And 12 of those 16 goals are at even strength. The bottom line is Strome is good, he’s young, he won’t be overpaid next year, and this team desperately needs a feel-good story with reality setting in that they aren’t competitive. Also, Strome fits in the DeBrincat / Dach timeline. By the time Dach is ready to take over at 1C (or even Reichel), you have the "problem" of having 2 surefire top 6 centers and potentially a 3rd. You win by having that depth.
Strome wants to be here, the star players want him here, and when he actually gets a stay on offensively focused lines, he produces in spades. Look at the gamelog from the previous season if you’re unsure. Over the first 14 games when he’s absolutely healthy and playing around or over 18 minutes a night, he has 8 points. He was put in Concussion Protocol on Feb 22nd, but then-coach Jeremy Colliton had stated he suffered it a few games ago and was playing through - could it have been in Columbus or Dallas the week prior, where his ice time had inexplicably dropped 5 and a half minutes between games? He went the next 5 games after that without a point and playing limited minutes, it would add up. Either way, he’d miss a month, come back, record a goal and then be quiet for 4 games, before finishing with a respectable 8 more points over the last 16 games.
When Blackhawks fans get on Strome for “not producing”, that’s the stretch they mean. The 10 games in a season slated for rebuilding where he was potentially playing through and coming back from a concussion, his second one in two years (he had also suffered one in 2019), because otherwise, he’s always been a 50-point-pace-or-better guy with Chicago. He’s been a consistent offensive producer more often than he hasn’t been.
But those are just my thoughts, what do you think? Sound off on Twitter and in the comments to let me know how wrong I am (although spoiler alert, I don’t think I am on this one). Dylan Strome should remain a Chicago Blackhawk, and definitely deserves a spot next year. Especially if the team is serious about not rushing its next set of prospects.