It hasn’t been an easy season for Flint Firebirds captain Ty Dellandrea.
After returning from training camp with the NHL’s Dallas Stars, Dellandra got off to a slow start offensively on a team that has struggled to win games.
But the points have started coming for him recently, and that success is just in time for the Canadian national junior team selection camp, which begins Monday in Victoria.
"It’s been a tough year in getting off to a slow start after coming back from Dallas," Dellandrea said. "You want to get going right away and I had a bit of a skid to start off. I’ve been able to pick it up a bit more (lately)."
The veteran forward, who is up to 13 goals and 29 points in 28 games after only scoring twice in the first month of the season, said it was an adjustment when he was sent back to Flint by the Stars as the OHL regular season opened in September.
"It’s definitely a different pace and it was a bit of an adjustment," Dellandrea said. "You’re playing with pro guys where it’s faster and every pass was perfect, and everybody was in the right position all the time. It’s different coming back. Things are a little sloppier with passes and positionally, so it was an adjustment coming back. Once I got used to it, I was able to translate what I learned there to my game here."
Dellandrea’s game has taken off recently and part of the success has come since Flint coach Eric Wellwood paired the Stars prospect with Jake Durham, a player Dellandrea has some history with.
"Playing with Jake Durham, we have a little bit of chemistry going," Dellandrea said. "We’ve been clicking and I’ve been able to produce a bit more."
"I grew up with Jake and I’ve played with Jake even though he’s a year older than me," Dellandrea added. "I was an (affiliate player) for their team since about minor pee wee. We were in the same Grade 4/5 split class. I’ve known Jake forever and I know how he plays. He’s like family to me. We’ve never really had a big opportunity to play together until Eric put us together."
Dellandrea called training camp with Dallas "eye-opening."
"I learned a lot," he said. "You learn just how much you still have to work to get better and improve and just how good everybody is at that level.
"As a kid, you think that maybe it just comes naturally to the best players but how hard they work and how much time they dedicate to the game is something that I (learned)."
Playing under a new coach after former Flint coach Ryan Oulahen stepped down earlier this season, Dellandrea spoke highly of Wellwood and his knowledge of the game.
"He’s super personable and has a tight grasp on his players," Dellandrea said of the Firebirds bench boss. "He’s a guy that you can talk to about anything if you need to. He’s knowledgeable. He’s a great coach."
"I love playing for him," Dellandrea added.
Dellandrea also spoke highly of Oulahen and how much he learned from the former Firebirds coach.
"Ryan was a great guy and someone I’m really close with," Dellandrea said. "I was sad to see him go. Ryan taught me a lot about how to be a good person, which came first to him. We all learned a lot from him. Even though hockey is the game we play, and we invest so much time into it, what comes first is being a good human being and a good teammate."
Dellandrea also credited Oulahen for helping him learn the game at a more detailed level.
"He taught me a lot of things," Dellandrea said. "When I came into the league, I didn’t really know a lot about defence and how to play the right systems and he showed me the ropes there. I owe a lot of my success up to this point to him."
Wellwood has high praise for the Stars prospect and his ability to play at both ends of the ice. The Firebirds bench boss called it a reason that the 18-year-old will compete for a spot on the Canadian national junior team.
"He’s a two-way player who is really good in the faceoff circle as well," Wellwood said. "He does the little things right and that’s what Hockey Canada is looking for. He can play a role up and down the lineup from the first to the fourth line."
UNDER THE RADAR
With much of the focus in Rimouski naturally on 2020 draft prospect Alexis Lafreniere, it’s one of his teammates who has put together quite the hot streak.
Jimmy Huntington has goals in seven straight games and points in 11 consecutive.
The overage forward has 22 points in that stretch.
With eight goals in his last seven games, Huntington has 16 goals in his last 13 games.
With the Prince Albert Raiders garnering much of the attention in the Western Hockey League, and deservedly so with a 28-2-0-1 record, the Everett Silvertips are the hottest team in the league.
The Silvertips have won nine straight games and have a 25-7-1-1 record, second-best in the WHL.
With points in seven of his last eight games, Connor Dewar leads Everett with 23 goals and 43 points in 29 games.