Flyers prospect Matthew Strome finding his stride with Barbara Underhill


If he wanted, Matthew Strome could proudly tout all of his strengths.

He can score, as evidenced by his 37 goals and 68 points in 65 regular-season games for the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs in 2017-18.

He has a powerful shot generated by great size, a 6-foot-3, 201-pound frame well employed.

Oh, and his vision, hands and smarts aren't too shabby — just watch this.

But he brings on what everyone says — his skating is flawed. Strome, only 19 years old, takes it like a pro and works at it like one. The left wing prospect has already improved since the 2017 draft in which the Flyers picked him in the fourth round.

"He's made some strides," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last month. "He had a real good year.

"Skating is always going to be something he has to work at, and the kid absolutely works his tail off."

With the help of a retired Olympian … figure skater.

Barbara Underhill, who was a world pair champion in 1984, is now prominent in the hockey world. She's worked with several NHL teams and is currently a skating development consultant for the Maple Leafs.

Strome connected with her through a friend. The two have worked together and are doing so again this summer in Toronto, practicing two to three times a week.

"She's helped me so much the past couple of summers," Strome said, "so it's going to keep getting better.

"Just working on everything really — stride, fast feet and edges, just getting a bit of everything in."

Strome isn't lacking for supporters in his corner. With tons of instruction, skating is always a focus at Flyers development camp, while Strome also leans on his older brothers Ryan and Dylan, both NHLers and former first-round picks.

"If I need anything, I ask them," Strome said. "I talk to them almost every day, whether that's over text or just playing video games with each other, we're always talking. I turn to them first if I need anything. They've just been a big help for me throughout my draft year and last year, just learning and growing as a player."

But skating with Underhill is a major resource.

Hextall said hockey players honing that all-important skill with figure skaters is becoming more and more common. Slava Kouznetsov, the Flyers' power skating coach, is a former figure skater. Hextall's wife, Diane, will also remind her husband of the dynamic.

"My wife was a figure skater and she always tells me she's a better skater than me," Hextall said with a laugh. "It's not going to get out of this room, but she's right. She could teach skating certainly better than I could.

"There are a lot of figure skaters in it now. They know how to skate."

Strome is aware. 

With Underhill's teaching, he'll glide into September more smoothly and confidently.

"Coming to camp, you never know what's going to happen, I obviously want to make the best impression I can," Strome said. "Whether I'm with the Flyers — which is my goal — or back in Hamilton, I'm just going to keep growing, keep growing as a player, keep working on my skating and try to make the Flyers next season."

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