BUFFALO – A breakout offensive season starring for the lowly Flint Firebirds has helped center Ty Dellandrea emerge as a possible first-round pick in next week’s NHL Draft.
The prospect NHL Central Scouting rated 25th among North American skaters could hear his name called June 22 in Dallas. Or perhaps he will have to wait until the second round begins the next morning. He said he talked to the Sabres, who own the 32nd selection, at the recent NHL Scouting Combine.
So what would Dellandrea, 17, say to someone thinking about taking him in the first round?
“Maybe I started taking this game and my career seriously a bit later than others,” he said June 2 after undergoing fitness testing at the combine inside HarborCenter.
Wait, why is that a good thing?
Well into his teens, the 6-foot, 184-pound Dellandrea said he “was into a lot of other sports.” Hockey was just one part of his life. He enjoyed mountain biking and playing lacrosse and volleyball.
“That’s why I wasn’t doing a lot of hockey-specific training in the summer,” said Dellandrea, who believes he has untapped growth potential because he started focusing on hockey later than most youngsters.
Growing up, Dellandrea didn’t want to burn out on one sport. Ultimately, the other activities expanded his appreciation for hockey.
“You still got to be a kid and enjoy all these great sports that life has to offer,” he said. “So I spent a lot of time doing other things, and I loved doing those, but I think it just learned to grow my love for hockey even more as the years went on. I was able to make the decision this is what I’m best at, this is what I want to do the rest of my life.”
On a Flint team that managed only 20 wins in the Ontario Hockey League last season, Dellandrea compiled 27 goals and 59 points in 67 games. He certainly possesses the talent to have a long hockey career.
Most notably, Dellandrea utilizes his speed well, exploiting opponents when an opportunity arises.
“Everybody notices him because he plays the game at such pace,” Central Scouting’s Dave Gregory said. “With and without the puck, he can really push the pace and make things happen, put D-men on their toes, and he recognizes that, that’s a good thing.
“Sometimes if you have pace and you don’t use it to your advantage, it’s not a good thing. What Ty does is recognize when someone might not be able to keep up with him, and then he’s behind him.”
Gregory doesn’t believe Dellandrea’s numbers – he led Flint in goals and ranked second in points – materialized from seizing opportunities on a weak team. He said Dellandrea also looked impressive when he represented Team Canada at the World Junior Under-18 Championship.
“When he had an opportunity to play with his own age group … you could see how he fits in that level,” he said.
Dellandrea understands playing for the OHL’s second-worst team could hurt his draft stock.
“Maybe a little bit, yeah,” he said. “It’s hard, obviously. They want winners. To be not winning a lot of games, that might be tough.”