Getting drafted in the first round is always special. But getting drafted by the host franchise with two of its greats on stage? That’s epic. The Dallas Stars took Ty Dellandrea 13th overall at the 2018 NHL draft, with Mike Modano and Jamie Benn on hand to help with the proceedings. Not suprisingly, it was a big thrill for Dellandrea. “Two guys I’ve looked up to in the hockey world for years,” he said. “To have my name called by Jamie is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
This is a pivotal pick for the Stars. Dallas has done well drafting defensemen the past few years, but it will need some of their forward prospects to step up, too. Valeri Nichushkin might be one option after his KHL sojourn, but Denis Gurianov clearly needs more time. Dellandrea isn’t ready for the NHL yet, but he does have a solid foundation to build from. “Great speed, he’s competitive and has really well-rounded skills,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “Plays a 200-foot game, he’s responsible and we think he’s just touching the edge of what he can become.”
Dallas had great intel on Dellandrea. Playing for the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, he was coached by Ryan Oulahen, who was drafted by the Wings during Nill’s tenure in Detroit. Dellandrea lived with Dallas pick Nicholas Caamano until the vet was traded to Hamilton mid-season, while Michigan is home turf for Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell.
What the organization saw was a kid who didn’t have a lot of talent around him after Caamano was dealt, but he kept motoring anyway. “I tried to take that responsibility and roll with it,” Dellandrea said. “Leave it out there every night. It helped me and made me a bigger contributor to the team.”
That Dellandrea went to Flint in the first place is a testament to his character. He was taken fifth overall by the franchise during a chaotic time that saw the players revolt against the owner, not to mention a still-ongoing water crisis in the Michigan town (the players billet outside the city proper). Some kids would’ve claimed they were going to the NCAA in order to avoid Flint, but not Dellandrea. “I knew the OHL was going to put us in great hands, so I wasn’t worried,” he said. “I had great rookies to go through it with in Dennis Busby (drafted by Arizona in 2018) and Hunter Holmes, so it’s been a great ride. There’s a lot of good people and players in Flint. It’s a good place.”
The next step is to bring some success on the ice, and Dellandrea is the key. “Their team is going to be better in Flint, and he’s a big part of that,” Nill said. “I think we’re going to see a quick jump in his game.”
This story appears in the August 20, 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.