Ryan Strome says Ducks are ‘on the right trajectory’
IRVINE — A player from the Ducks’ past helped shape the organization’s future.
Give that assist to Andrew Cogliano.
Center Ryan Strome, who had played the bulk of his career for New York-area teams, was doing his due diligence heading into free agency and contemplating a move to Anaheim. Strome scored a career-high 21 goals this past season with the New York Rangers and had options.
But the hockey world is a small world. One phone call or text message can yield plenty of valuable information.
“I had a lot of good conversations with Andrew Cogliano,” said Strome at training camp Friday. “We’re close. A couple of days before free agency, we talked about a possibility and he was telling me, ‘Honestly, it’s the best place I’ve ever been in my life.’
“He said he wants to live here maybe one day when he’s done playing. He couldn’t talk highly enough about it. He talked about some of the older guys that are still here and that it would have been perfect for me. He’s been pretty bang on.”
Cogliano, now with the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, played eight seasons and 584 NHL games with the Ducks. His words had an impact on Strome, who signed a five-year, $25-million contract with the Ducks on July 13.
“In the days leading up to it, you hear from a lot of teams,” Strome said. “As it gets down to it, there are only a few interested teams. You go from eight phone calls to five. As guys come off the board, options get limited.”
Strome and his wife, Sydney, have two young daughters. Their oldest is 2, and the move from his native Toronto to Orange County involved a complete family effort.
“My mom flew with me and the kids and my wife,” he said. “My dad drove my car out here – with the dog,” Strome said. “My mother-in-law is visiting. They don’t like to be away from their grandkids for too long. My dad drove to New York eight times last year.”
Strome started his career with the New York Islanders and played parts of two seasons – a combined 100 games – for the Edmonton Oilers before getting traded to the Rangers in November 2018. It’s been only two days of training camp, but how did it match his perceptions of the Ducks?
“What I expected is exactly what I see,” Strome said. “I see a lot of really good young players with a ton of potential, mixed in with a bunch of really good veterans that are underrated. If you look at (Jacob) Silfverberg, Cam Fowler, (Kevin) Shattenkirk, (John) Klingberg, it’s a mix that’s good for a young team.
“It’s a little bit similar to New York, the situation we were in there. Obviously, things turned out pretty well. This team is on the right trajectory. We’ve got a good thing brewing.
“Talent is one thing and having the right guys, but I think it is a belief in the dressing room. Doing the right things 24/7, that’s what we did in New York. I can already see the groundwork here. The way (coach) Dallas (Eakins) runs his team is really impressive and inspiring.”
The 29-year-old right-handed center gives the Ducks important additional depth up the middle.
“A big part of puck possession is getting those faceoffs, so we’ve got a guy that can handle that right side,” Eakins said. “He’s a true pro. He’s got the mindset of getting better every day. He leads by example.
“One of the things that we need to do better is check. We know all he can score, but he’s quietly a very good checker too. He checks a lot of boxes for us where we are right now.”
Strome possesses a thinking man’s game.
“I like to play the game with my brain a little bit – play a 200-foot game,” he said. “Think my way around the ice and try to make the right play as I see it.”
Managing McTavish’s schedule
Ideally, how many games should rookie Mason McTavish play in the preseason?
“Right now, we just couldn’t get him to take a break,” Eakins said. “Training camp is hard. I think we will take at least a bit of a breath on him jumping into games. For me, he’s played so much. If we can get him into four (games), maybe that would be ideal.
“We’ll have to monitor the numbers, the load on his body every day. See where those are at and see what his recovery looks like as well.”
McTavish has been on the wing in training camp and the plan is to keep him there.
“If you look down the middle on our team, it becomes difficult,” Eakins said. “We’ve got Strome. We’ve got (Trevor) Zegras. Isac Lundestrom, who had an incredible year, and Derek Grant.
“To try to crowbar something in there, I don’t think that’s the smartest thing. With Mason, his best chance to make the team is going to be on a wing. That’s why we have him playing wing in these games training camp.”