Mere weeks into his second full NHL season, on Oct. 24, the fifth-overall pick in the 2011 draft was a healthy scratch against the St. Louis Blues, despite scoring five points in his first seven games. He was back in the lineup for the next game, against the Calgary Flames, but sat out the Oct. 29 game against the Carolina Hurricanes with an illness. And then he was sent to Bridgeport on Friday.
These types of rough patches are strewn all over the road to the NHL, even for top prospects. But this latest patch for Strome was at least softened by the presence of a strong support network, including two younger brothers who could be meeting him in the NHL soon enough.
"It's great for me being able to be there for them," Strome said of his brothers. "It helps us all get through the ups and downs. I try to watch them and be there for them. We know how lucky we are, to be as close as we are."
Strome, 22, talks to his brothers Dylan, 18, and Matthew, 16, almost every day. And while those conversations don't always revolve around hockey, the three brothers typically have plenty of advice to share as they navigate their own hockey careers.
Such is the everyday reality for a family consisting of three top-ranked prospects.
"Me, Matt and Ryan used to play on the street quite a bit when we were younger," said Dylan Strome. "They always threw me in net because they were afraid of the ball. My mom always got mad because my pants always got ripped from falling on my knees. I was always rolling around, the dirtiest of all three of us."
Dylan's dirty days between the pipes wouldn't last. Like his older brother, he captained the famed Toronto Marlboros Midget triple-A team before being a top pick in the Ontario Hockey League draft. Just like with Ryan, it all culminated at the NHL draft, where the Arizona Coyotes took Dylan third overall in June.
Dylan appeared on his way to joining a young, rebuilding Coyotes team and meeting Ryan this season. But his path to the pros encountered a considerable snag when the Coyotes cut him in training camp and shipped him back to his OHL team, the Erie Otters.
Facing his first major setback as an NHLer, Dylan knew exactly who to call.
"I talk to my brothers almost every day. They just say, 'Keep playing your game,'" said Matthew. "If you have a bad game, just get ready for practice the next day and work to get better."
Matthew, who also captained the Marlboros before being a top pick in the OHL draft this year by the Hamilton Bulldogs, is carving his own road to the NHL. And he'll likely have to demonstrate the same resilience his two older brothers have shown early in their pro hockey careers.
That toughness was built from hours of merciless ball hockey games outside the Strome house in Mississauga, Ontario. Despite being six years older than his youngest brother, Ryan refused to give an inch in these endless outdoor sessions.
"There were a couple of fights, but no broken bones or anything," said Matthew. "No mercy. Just go hard all the time."
The hockey gods would eventually offer their take on Ryan's hard-nosed approach to family when both Dylan and Matthew passed him on their way to adulthood. Matthew is already the tallest of the group, while Dylan, who measures 6-foot-3, was barely in junior hockey by the time he shot past the 6-foot-1 Ryan.
Listed at 6-foot-3 but still growing, it's youngest brother Matthew who could be the real anomaly among the Strome brothers. Already equipped with a big body that neither of his older brothers had at the start of their junior careers, he's started turning into a prototypical power forward.
"They're certainly unique, when you get three brothers who can play at that level," said Dennis MacInnis, the director of scouting for ISS Hockey.
MacInnis has scouted all three brothers and while each of them possesses a particular skill that sets them apart, there are some traits common to all three. Traits he believes can lead them all to the NHL.
"They all have unbelievable hockey sense. Great vision, puckhandling ability," MacInnis said. "They're all big-moment players. Matthew scored the overtime winner in the OHL Cup. Dylan racks up over 100 points in his draft year. They all have that dedication that it takes to improve and work hard."
The brothers have spent countless hours playing in the family driveway and talking on the phone. But there's one thing they still haven't done: face off in a game against each other. The four-year age gap between Ryan and Dylan made going head-to-head in the OHL almost impossible. Hamilton and Erie are scheduled to meet this season on Jan. 3, but that game coincides with the IIHF World Junior Championships in Helsinki, and every expectation is that Dylan will be playing in the tournament as part of Team Canada.
For now, parents Chris and Trish Strome won't have to worry about testing their allegiances. In all likelihood, the first Strome matchup will come at the pro level, potentially next season.
"That will be really exciting for everyone," said Ryan. "It's definitely something I'm looking forward to, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."
That game can wait. The Stromes are still reeling from Dylan's draft day in Florida. A day that saw another brother make a highly anticipated entry into the NHL and improve on his brother's fifth-overall selection for good measure.
"It was unbelievable. That whole week was pretty crazy, talking to so many teams and different people," said Dylan. "The whole day went by in a blink. It was really fun to go through it with my family and my two best friends in my brothers."
Just like that, the Stromes were in contention to join the NHL's other historic brother acts, from the Sutters to the Staals. Of course, being compared to some of hockey's foremost families leaves plenty of pressure placed squarely on Matthew Strome, who is still almost two years away from his draft day.
Considering the support system provided by two older brothers who have already encountered several twists and turns on their way to the NHL, Matthew Strome should be in good hands.
"They were both my role models growing up," said Matthew. "It's a great feeling seeing Ryan play in the NHL and being at the draft with Dylan. Just an amazing experience."
Experiences he could enjoy for himself in the next few years.