After a solid 2021-22 season with the Chicago Blackhawks, in which he recorded 22 goals, 26 assists and 48 points in 69 games, Dylan Strome was not drafted by his former roster late last season.
In a painful headache for the rebuilding Blackhawks, Strome entered the unrestricted free agency market. Luckily for the Capitals and general manager Brian MacLellan, the signing of Strome was one of the simplest, low-risk, high-reward deals of the summer.
The Capitals and Strome struck a one-year, $3.5 million contract against salary cap. As a nice touch to the deal, Strome will be a limited free agent after this season, giving the Capitals the flexibility to extend Strome while maintaining team control this summer.
Chicago’s brain-numbing decision not to stun Strome was a godsend for the Capitals, as Nicklas Backstrom was on the long-term injured list for the foreseeable future. They picked up a solid top-six center with wing flexibility who had experience with some of the league’s top talent in Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat.
In this post, we dive into Strome’s performance so far this season. Statistics used in this post are from Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, and HockeyViz. If you would like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please see our NHL Analytics Glossary.
First, let’s take a look at how Strome fared in terms of Goals Above Replacement (GAR) and Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM). These metrics help us capture a player’s overall performance outside of the production of individual points.
Here’s how Strome’s GAR compares to its peers in the Capitals Forward group: [Click to enlarge]
Strome ranks second on the team among forwards in the entire GAR, trailing only Nic Dowd. Strome boasts a 3.3 offensive GAR that ranks second on the team behind Conor Sheary. He’s also in the top-4 among Capitals forwards in the equally strong defensive GAR (1.0), which is solid considering his typical linemates in Sheary (-1.3) and Alex Ovechkin (- 1.8) struggle in this regard.
The good news here is that Strome has proven defensively reliable in a system and under a head coach that demands a solid 200-foot game from his players.
Now let’s take a look at Strome’s RAPM:
At consistent strength, Strome performs fairly well on most counts, outside of Corsi Against per 60 minutes (CA/60). This doesn’t exactly go against expectations since, as mentioned earlier, he’s in line with Sheary and Ovechkin, who aren’t exactly defensive dynamos.
We’ll talk more about possession stats a little later, but there’s certainly nothing to worry about about Strome’s performance during a game of consistent strength. One thing to note here is that his per 60 (GF/60) goals are slightly below his expected per 60 (xGF/60) goals, which may be an indicator of an increase in offensive production imminent.
On the right side of the chart above, we can see that Strome is very effective on power play. This can also be proved by the fact that Strome is the second-biggest forward in the GAR power play offense, trailing only Conor Sheary.
Strome brings a lot of value to offensive power play and has proven to be quite interchangeable with Evgeny Kuznetsov at the half wall or at the goal line below the face off spot.
Here’s Strome’s isolated influence, courtesy of HockeyViz:
Long story short in the chart above, Strome gives the Capitals offensive xGF/60 a solid boost at even strength considering his teammates, competition, and coaching. Even in the low slot, a higher shot volume focuses on the most dangerous areas between faceoff points.
Here’s how Strome has fared in possession stats over the past three seasons:
Strome is outperforming his Corsi For Percentage (CF%), xGF% and High-Danger Chance for Percentage (HDCF%) this season compared to the previous two. The increase in HDCF% rates will propel xGF% higher, so it’s not surprising to see Strome posting 51.71 xGF% this season as the Capitals control the majority of high-risk opportunities while he’s on the ice .
The GF% is quite far behind its xGF% which should be an indicator that an increase in offensive production should follow soon.
Statistically, the Capitals are unlikely to continue trending at a -10% difference between GF and xGF throughout the season, especially as the roster gets healthier. In that regard, Strome’s best may be yet to come.
The Capitals’ acquisition of Dylan Strome could be one of the highest returns in terms of player value in the entire league this offseason. Strome only makes $3.5 million against the cap, so his positional flexibility and current performance should earn him a long-term deal with the Capitals.
Strome has consistently been one of the best players on the ice for the Caps, and if those numbers move in the direction we’re seeing, they likely will continue to do so for the rest of the season.
By Justin Trudel