Dylan Strome thinks world junior pressure is 'a cool feeling'

Dylan Strome is back to try to help Canada rebound from an eighth-place finish at the world junior hockey championship. CBC Sports spoke to him about the tourney, his first taste of the NHL this season and his good friend and ex-teammate Connor McDavid.

NHL prospect says Team Canada's success depends on improved execution

World junior returnee Dylan Strome is expected to lead Canada at this year’s tournament, starting Dec. 26 against Russia. The NHL prospect played seven games with the Coyotes this season before being sent back to the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters in November. (Canadian Press/Getty Images/CBC Sports)

Dylan Strome remembers the 4 a.m. wake-up calls to watch brother Ryan and the rest of Team Canada try to build on a bronze-medal performance at the 2012 world junior hockey championship.

They were unsuccessful, placing fourth in Ufa, Russia in 2013. Strome also watched Canada win gold on home soil in his native Toronto two years later and was a member of last year's squad that finished sixth in Helsinki, its worst showing since an eighth-place standing in 1998.

"Most people only get the chance to play at the world juniors once and you think it's going to be your last," Strome, projected to be Canada's No. 1 centre at this year's annual under-20 tournament in Toronto and Montreal, told CBC Sports recently. "You see how much the country is behind the guys and you want to win.

"You don't understand what it's like when you're playing. People are making Instagrams and Snapchats, all your buddies are tweeting and everyone in the country is talking about the game that just happened. You feel like you have the whole country on your shoulders and it's a cool feeling."

Strome, who started this season with the Arizona Coyotes before being returned to the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters in late November, is one of five returning players competing this week for a spot on Canada's 22-man roster. The Canadians open the world juniors Dec. 26 against Russia at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Strome spoke to CBC Sports about this year's world junior squad, what he learned from his time with the Coyotes and his thoughts on good friend and former linemate Connor McDavid's second NHL season.

How would you like to see the Canadian juniors play differently this year?

I think we have to execute better. We did at certain times [last year] but we kind of let our guard down. They [coaches] treat us like kings and give us the right video [to prepare for teams] but it's up to us to produce on the ice.

Every hockey country is slowly gaining on everyone. We were down 1-0 to Denmark [in the preliminary round last year] and ended up winning [6-1] and [won 3-2 in a] shootout with the Swiss. Those two countries are on the rise and there are no easy games.

University of North Dakota standout Tyson Jost could be on your wing to start the world junior tourney. What do you like about his game?

I think he sees the ice really well and he's a great playmaker. We seemed to have a little bit of chemistry [at the national junior team summer development camp]. Hopefully there's a connection there.

Which Coyotes player(s) helped show you the way on and off the ice during your two months with the NHL team?

[Forward] Jamie McGinn had some of us over for dinner and he and his girlfriend cooked for us. It was nice to get out of the hotel for once and have a home-cooked meal.

A guy like [Arizona captain] Shane Doan was there for me if I needed anything. Twenty-one years in the league speaks for itself. He knows what it takes to be successful. One thing he told me was that people are going to remember you for what you do on the ice, but you also want to be remembered for being a good person.

If someone wants an autograph after the game, he's going to stop and shake their hand, ask their name and tell them to have a good day.

What are some of the learned lessons from playing your first seven games in the NHL?

That it's the NHL and you're not going to get four or five points a night [like in junior]. The NHL is hard, it's about playing a 200-foot game. I thought I was doing well but things happen and you're out of the lineup for so long that you get out of a rhythm. You have to work in practice to find your game again.

The one thing I learned most was you don't take for granted that you're going to be in the lineup every day. You gotta work hard.

You see the [NHL] guys … working out after every practice and game and I didn't realize [how often] they did that. I try to do that [in Erie] as much as possible to show the younger guys so they know what happens at the next level.

What have you learned about ex-teammate Connor McDavid's game with the Edmonton Oilers now that you're watching him on TV instead of skating up the ice beside him?

I think just how fast he is and how much the defencemen respect him. They're backing up all the time against him. They have to respect his speed.

Did you ever think he would lead the league in scoring in his second NHL season?

I think I told someone last year he could lead the league in scoring [this season]. I played with him for two years and I know his abilities. You give him the puck and he's gone. He gets the puck in any situation and he's the first guy out of the pile with the puck.


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