The NHL put its 2019-20 season on pause March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains hopeful to award the Stanley Cup at some point. Although it's unclear if or when it could return, NBC Sports Chicago will recap the season of each Blackhawks player to date in our "season in review" series. Next up is Dylan Strome.
When the Blackhawks acquired Dylan Strome in November of 2018, both sides were hoping a change of scenery would help unlock the potential of a player that was drafted No. 3 overall in 2015. It was a perfect situation for Strome, who didn't have to feel the weight of a franchise on his shoulders in Chicago like he did in Arizona but still solidify a spot as a core member of the future.
His first season with the Blackhawks was about as good as you could've asked for. He tallied 17 goals and 34 assists for 51 points in 58 games and became a fixture on the first power play unit that took off in December. To put the production aspect into perspective, Strome recorded only 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 48 games across three seasons in Arizona. It was a huge sigh of relief for Strome, who finally felt more like himself.
But Year 2 has been a bit of a challenge, particularly the second half of the season.
Up until the calendar flipped to January, only Patrick Kane (51) had more points on the Blackhawks than Strome, who registered 29 points in 37 games for a points-per-game average of 0.78. But over that span, Strome went through three seven-game goal droughts, in part due to the team's lack of power play success all season long. So while his production was certainly nothing to sneeze, Strome wasn't completely satisfied with where his game was at.
The lowest point of his season came on Jan. 7 when he suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the lineup for one month. And he just didn't look like the same player.
Strome went 14 games without scoring a goal since returning to the lineup and was a healthy scratch in the middle of that stretch. The Blackhawks tried moving him to wing to help take away some of the defensive responsibility but that seemingly made things more complicated. And then his ice time dwindled, which probably didn't help his confidence.
Strome started to turn a corner though before the NHL put its season on pause due to the COVID-19 crisis. He was moved back to his natural position at center and played alongside Patrick Kane, which immediately paid dividends.
When Kane and Strome were on the ice together at 5-on-5 this season, the Blackhawks had a plus-11 goal differential, according to Natural Stat Trick. When Strome was away from Kane, the Blackhawks had a minus-2 goal differential. The two of them operate on the same wavelength and it shows on the ice.
Strome is one of nine players on the roster set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season. It will be a challenge to fit everyone under the cap next season, but he should be near the top of the Blackhawks' priority list.
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