Strome's work without the puck boosts overall game.
Dylan Strome is having a career season offensively.
One more goal and the Blackhawks forward will set a career high with 21.
But that's not what most impresses coach Derek King.
After all, Strome has always had a nose for finding the net and an uncanny ability to give linemates prime scoring chances with pinpoint passes.
It was his play away from the puck that wasn't up to NHL standards and a big reason he was having a difficult time finding a consistent role.
That changed this season. Not all at once, but gradually, over the course of a few weeks, Strome proved he was willing to play a 200-foot game.
And make no mistake -- King noticed the change and has pretty much left him on the top line with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat ever since.
"He works without the puck now," King said. "It's not always perfect, but he is working. (After) turnovers, you got a backcheck and he's the guy that's back. He's got his stick in the lane and it gets deflected out of the way and breaks up a play. These are the things he wasn't doing. ...
"And it's helped him. It's helped his offense. It's funny how that works."
In the last 28 games Strome has 16 goals and 15 assists while averaging 19 minutes, 11 seconds of ice time. Eleven of those goals have come in the last 15 contests.
He's also winning a career-high 52.8% of his faceoffs, something he attributes -- at least in part -- to learning how to juggle last off-season. Doing that helped Strome's hand-eye coordination, which has translated to better results at the dot.
Early in the season -- and especially when Jeremy Colliton was still the coach -- Strome was walking on eggshells. He'd often wonder -- even after a decent performance -- if he'd be scratched the next game.
Now the stress level is down. And the confidence is sky high.
"It's obviously frustrating if you're not playing a lot and maybe make a couple mistakes and then potentially not be in the lineup," Strome said. "In that sense (this is) definitely a little easier on the stress levels -- just to come to the rink and you've got a job to do and know where you're going to be slotted.
"Doesn't mean it's any less serious. Obviously you're an important part of the team on the power play and first line so you've got to do the right things to continue to be out there and help the team win."
The Hawks haven't been doing much of that lately, losing eight of 10 heading into Thursday's contest against Seattle at the United Center.
Still, Strome has been a bright light during a rough campaign. He'll be a free agent with arbitration rights this summer and it will be interesting to see which path GM Kyle Davidson takes.
Does he sign Strome to a lucrative deal? Or does he attempt to trade him for draft picks and/or assets?
Strome's says he's not worried about any of that and is focused on finishing the season strong.
"It's so far out of your control," Strome said. "No one knows what's going to happen next season or throughout the summer. So you've just got to go with these last (12) games, play hard and play strong and do what you can to prove to them that you want to be a part of it."
Said King: "He still has some room for improvement. He has to continue to just play the way he's played and play hard. ...
"I'll be in his ear about, 'This isn't the time to pack it in. This is the time to ramp it up here ... get going.' "
Dylan Strome's career stats:
Season, team GP G A Pts.
2017-18, Ariz. 21 4 5 9
2018-19, Ariz. 20 3 3 6
2018-19, Chi. 58 17 34 51
2019-20, Chi. 58 12 26 38
2020-21, Chi. 40 9 8 17
2021-22, Chi. 57 20 23 43
Totals 261 65 100 165
Notes: Played in 7 games in 2016-17 (1 assist); 2019-20 season shortened to 70 games; 2020-21 season was 56 games