"He's not chopped liver," Otters owner and general manager Sherry Bassin said in a recent interview. "Everybody is talking about this other guy, and he's fine with it. ... He never talks about himself, he does his talking on the ice."
Already the younger brother of 2011 No. 5 pick Ryan Strome, Dylan doesn't mind McDavid's shadow and is building an impressive resume in his own right. Strome is expected to follow McDavid up to the stage on NHL draft day this June as a potential top-10 pick.
Listed seventh on International Scouting Services mid-season rankings, Strome is one of 40 players in St. Catharines, Ont., this week for Thursday night's CHL top prospects game. Behind McDavid, Boston University centre Jack Eichel and Boston College defenceman Noah Hanifin, Strome is competing with fellow top prospects Lawson Crouse and Mitchell Marner for a top-five spot.
"I like Strome: He's got a lot of offensive upside to his game, good size, lots of potential for down the road," ISS Hockey scouting director Dennis MacInnis said. "The one thing he's got to work on is his skating because it's not explosive. He's very dangerous on the power play, but he's got to work on his skating."
Strome knows skating is his biggest deficiency and is working tirelessly to improve it. Over the past four summers the Mississauga, Ont., native trained with former Toronto Maple Leafs skating coach Dawn Braid a couple of times a week.
Braid, who previously worked with Ryan Strome and now-New York Islanders teammate John Tavares, said Dylan has improved remarkably from when he started training with her at age 13.
"Dylan was doing a lot of growing from when he first started," Braid said in a phone interview Tuesday. "In combination with his work ethic off the ice getting stronger, that's obviously helped. He's still young and from my experience working with players, even if you take his brother Ryan or you take John Tavares, when they were 18, 19, they still were like where Dylan is today."
In other words, a work in progress. During the OHL season, Strome tries to copy the principles Braid teaches over to every drill in practice.
"It's kind of just remembering what she taught me in the summer and constantly reminding myself what she told me, like where I move my arms and the position of my stride," Strome said earlier this season. "If you can remember that, you're going to generally get faster."
Dylan said brother Ryan, who's in his first full NHL season with the Islanders after playing 37 games last year, is definitely faster. But he's also four years older.
"At the next level, I need to get a lot faster," Strome said. "Obviously strength, that comes with time and throughout the summers and stuff. But I think my speed definitely needs to get better if I ever want to play at the next level."
Erie coach Kris Knoblauch sees skating as the only real weak part of Strome's game. And he doesn't consider it a problem that will linger for much longer.
"I think he's got a stride that just is continually going to get better," Knoblauch said. "He's one of those guys who's 17, he's a tall, gangly guy, but as he gets stronger I think he's going to be an excellent all-around skater."
Strome is already a dominant, point-producing junior hockey player. His 80 points on 28 goals and 52 assists are second in the OHL to Marner of the London Knights, and he helped keep the Otters afloat when McDavid missed time with a broken right hand and then the world juniors.
"It's nice to see him coming along," said Braid, who believes Strome has developed better body control, posture and skating on his edges. "We always knew he was a talented player and sometimes they were questioning his skating. And I think over the next few years, if Dylan sticks with it, when that strength side of it comes in, when he matures physically, I think the games will be huge."
If Strome ever needs motivation to keep working harder with Braid on his skating, he can look at what Tavares accomplished.
"It definitely gives you a confidence boost when you see a guy that wasn't maybe the greatest skater at the minor-midget level and the first year in the OHL become one of the most dominant skaters in the NHL," Strome said Tuesday at Meridian Centre in St. Catharines. "That's what he is now. In my eyes he's one of the best skaters in the league."
Strome flourishes on the power play and at even strength. Basically anywhere he can find teammates for goals.
"I love having the puck on my stick, and I love dishing for chances and I love creating opportunities," he said.
Most offensive-minded players do. But the six-foot-three 187-pounder looks like he could round into a prototypical NHL centre. Knoblauch said he believes Strome can be a top-two centre at that level.
"He's incredibly smart, he's very competitive," Knoblauch said. "He's naturally more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, not that he can't score goals, but he's excellent setting up his teammates."
So excellent that he could tie or surpass his brother as the highest draft pick in his family. Dylan and Ryan rib each other about that, but an older brother's advice in a draft year is a little more serious.
Ryan Strome has told Dylan to stay even-keeled amid the uncertainty.
"He tells me ... 'It's a long season, it's a long next couple years. You don't know what's going to happen. It's a long summer, it's a long winter,'" Dylan Strome said. "He just said if you play your hardest every game, someone's going to like you in the draft."
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