The Blackhawks’ surprising trade Sunday with the Coyotes brought them two players with strong draft pedigrees and underwhelming results since. It’s a gamble for both sides that likely will hinge on the development of center Dylan Strome, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Strome, whom the Hawks acquired with 2014 first-round pick Brendan Perlini, hasn’t shown potential yet. He had a goal and an assist in his Hawks debut Tuesday, but that was only his second multipoint game in the NHL. Well-documented skating issues have cast a cloud over his future in a league that’s getting faster each season.
That’s not to say his lofty draft status is the lone sign for optimism. Here are a few others:
An AHL star
It’s not ideal that Strome spent most of his third year since being drafted in the American Hockey League last season, but he did play well for the Tucson Roadrunners.
Strome was third in points per game (1.06) last season among AHL players to appear in at least 50 games. Those ahead of him were 25 and 28 years old, while Strome spent most of last season as a 20-year-old.
It continued Strome’s trend of strong production. He averaged more than 1.6 points during his junior career.
Poor puck luck
Strome made the transition to playing full-time with the Coyotes this season, but he had only two even-strength points in 20 games. The team used him primarily in the bottom six, and he struggled to produce next to Lawson Crouse and Nick Cousins, his most common linemates.
But Strome was among the Coyotes’ leaders in driving play with a 53.2 percent Corsi and 51.2 percent share of scoring chances during five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.
What sunk Strome’s lines for much of this stretch was an unsustainably low shooting percentage of 2.5. The Hawks are 20th in even-strength shooting percentage this season, but even they’re at 8.1.
Strome should see better puck luck with the Hawks, especially if he’s on a line with better playmakers.
This will please Hawks fans, even those who think faceoffs are overrated. At least based on this season, Strome has developed into one of the top faceoff centers in the game.
Only 12 players in the NHL have won at least 100 faceoffs with a success rate of 57 percent or better this season. Jonathan Toews is one of them. Strome is another.
The Hawks’ non-Toews centers have won only 45 percent of faceoffs this season. Strome should provide a big boost.