When Dylan Strome talks about his future, he is careful to avoid moving too far ahead. The newcomer to Washington isn’t naive; he knows this season with the Capitals offers a chance for him to establish himself with a new franchise and set roots in D.C. But if there’s anything Strome learned from growing up in a hockey family, it’s that success requires not only skill and hard work but also the right situation.
As much as Strome, 25, believes he is a good fit in Washington, there is a long season ahead — and plenty to prove. He signed a one-year deal in July, becoming a key piece of the forward corps. The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks, with whom he had played for the past four seasons, decided to let him hit free agency.
Strome, who scored a career-best 22 goals and recorded 26 assists last season, let that decision fuel him.
“I just want to feel wanted,” he said. “… You got to work your way up and show the team that they want to sign you for long term, not that you are forcing their hand. I want to just enjoy it and have fun. You don’t get to play this game forever, so I’m just having fun, living in the moment.”
He learned that lesson in part from his older brother, Ryan, a 10-year NHL veteran who also changed teams in the offseason, moving from the New York Rangers to the Anaheim Ducks. Dylan and his younger brother, Matt, had front-row seats as Ryan navigated his own difficulties and successes.
“My message to them is ‘Don’t get too high, and don’t get too low,’ ” said Ryan, 29. “I think through our minor hockey careers and junior careers, we didn’t face adversity. Then I got to pro hockey, and I had some ups and down and faced some challenges and some roadblocks. I think them seeing me go through it and them seeing firsthand the challenges that pro hockey has and stuff like that, they’ve learned from it.”
The brothers talk to each other every day, a task made easier when Dylan and Matt both participated in Capitals training camp. Still seeking his NHL debut, Matt, 23, signed with the Hershey Bears, the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate.
Training camp was the first time any of the Strome brothers were on the ice together in a team environment since they were young. Ryan said that while it “sounds cheesy,” it was something their parents were “over the moon” about.
“We are just a normal hockey family and trying to squeeze every bit of this life we can,” Ryan said.
During camp, Matt lived for 2½ weeks in Dylan’s house in Arlington, becoming a live-in roommate in an already-crowded household. Matt got to be around his sister-in-law, Tayler, in addition to the couple’s young daughter, Weslie, and their energetic golden retriever, Benny.
Matt said he loved being around his niece and was always willing to lend a hand after long days at the rink. Weslie, who is 1½, loves all the attention she can get. She is already running around, blurting out words here and there. Dylan said she has taken to her mother more than her father, though there might be some controversy over her first word.
“There are some question marks around that, but I think her first word might have been ‘dada’ — but when she knew what ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ meant, it was ‘mama,’ ” Dylan said with a chuckle.
The couple, who got married this summer and spent their honeymoon in Hawaii, also have a house in Oakville, Ontario. Their home is 20 minutes from Dylan’s parents’ house, as well as Ryan’s house in Mississauga. In the summers, Dylan and Matt work out daily at Ryan’s house. When they aren’t in the gym or on the ice, they’re probably golfing.
Ryan and Matt agree that Ryan is the best golfer of the brothers. They also agree that Matt, if he hasn’t already surpassed Dylan, is challenging him for the No. 2 spot.
“For some reason, Dylan’s game gets worse the more he plays,” Ryan quipped.
Said Matt: “I think I’m better than Dylan, but he would not be happy if he heard that.”
Jokes aside, Ryan and Matt are thrilled about Dylan’s opportunity in Washington. They see it as a fresh start and hope he can have a breakout season.
“This is a good challenge for him because, in his career and his life, he really hasn’t had too, too much adversity, so I think in order to grow it is a great challenge,” Ryan said. “To have a chip on your shoulder is a good attitude to have, so I think he’s in a great place to do that, and I think it will be a great fit for both sides.”
Dylan, who was a healthy scratch at times under two different coaches in Chicago, said he is ready to prove he can be a contributor for a contender. With the Capitals, he should get a chance not only to solidify his place in the NHL but help an aging roster make a run at another Stanley Cup title.
“For him to get to play with those [veterans], it is unbelievable,” Matt said. Dylan had “a smile on his face every day when I [got] home from the rink. He’s happy to be here, and this is a big shot for him — and he is going to make the most of his opportunity.”