One of my key OHL sources was effusive in his praise of the 6-1, 183-pound pivot who is enjoying a coming out season in his draft year, telling me that his early OHL-leading points production was not a fluke but rather the real deal.
Now, Strome is coming off his first major junior hat trick (while adding an assist) in a 5-4 win over Belleville last night. That gives Strome six goals and 16 points in just eight contests. That puts him into a three-way tie for the league lead in scoring with Toronto prospect Greg McKegg (a steal at the top of the third round last June, btw) and Ryan Murphy, the Kitchener offensive defenseman par excellence that you know all about if you've been keeping up with this blog. McKegg gets top billing because he has more goals (7 in the same amount of games), but Murphy has played one fewer game than Strome has.
Strome, I'm told, was a gangly, awkward player over the last two years as one of these kids who gets a big growth spurt and then needs some time for his coordination to catch up with the long limbs. Well, so far, he looks like the legitimate goods as a solid first-round pick, although I'm sure teams were hoping they could snatch him in the early second. Unless he goes into some kind of crazy scoring drought, it looks like Strome will keep moving up the charts as a dangerous scorer who can set up the play and finish as well. He's a strong skater with the quick release, soft hands and vision/hockey sense package that usually means a player will carry it over to the next level.
Other 2011-eligible names in the OHL who are looking good early on especially in the scoring department are: a pair of Kitchener imports in Gabriel Landeskog (Sweden) and Tobias Rieder (Germany) who both have identical stats lines of 6-6-12 in seven games. Both players have a lot to like in their games: Landeskog is that bruising, skilled power forward, while Rieder's wheels and lightning hands make him a going concern offensively every time he's out there.
Vincent Trocheck is another player to keep an eye on. He's been important to Saginaw's early-season success, and may not have a lot of size, but can do everything else to include fighting. I don't know if his offensive skills translate into a top-six role at the NHL level, but his speed, abrasiveness and high energy level make him a strong candidate to go all the way as a checking/energy player at the least.
Russian Alexander Khoklachev is making a name for himself in Windsor as well. He's supremely talented and can do just about anything he wants with the puck. His play away from the puck is what scouts will heavily scrutinize this season, but he's been a highly impactful player for the Spitfires to date, with six goals and 11 points in nine games.
Ottawa 67's winger Shane Prince is another player gaining some traction for the draft. With two goals and 11 points in nine games, the November '92 birthdate from New York (acquired by Ottawa from Kitchener last season) is pacing the 67's in scoring this season. His production is good for 20th in the league so far, and if he can keep it up, the average-sized forward who has some legitimate skill is going to garner a lot of attention going forward.
Although there are reports that the 2011 class on the whole is middle-of-the-pack when compared to other recent groups, the fact that eight of the top-20 OHL point producers are 2011 candidates (and two of them-- Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of Sarnia are 2012-eligible- yowzas) perhaps speaks to more depth than the group is getting credit for. Speaking of Yakupov, check out the way he protects the puck beautifully from the attempted sweepcheck and then roofs it in the OHL Plays of the Week video for October 14th.
There are three older/overagers whohaven't been drafted as of now in the top-20 as well: Erie's Mike Cazzola (here's a nice article on him quoting former Bruins coach now bench boss for the Otters Robbie Ftorek), Tyler Peters and Zack MacQueen, whose dad, Dave, is the Sarnia GM/head coach and traded him to Windsor for a 12th-round pick last summer. MacQueen appears to be making Spits GM Warren Rychel look like a genius while showing his pops up a little bit.
Given Boston's recent trend of picking older, previously passed-over players in recent drafts (Nick Tremblay in '08, Lane MacDermid in '09 and Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek and Maxim Chudinov in '10) there's a possibility that one of these guys could get a call from the B's or another one of the NHL's 30 teams come June, so keep an eye on how they perform. You'd think at least they'll get an opportunity as a free agent if not drafted, at least.