Heading into Dec. 6, Ty Dellandrea had a respectable 26 points in 24 games. Nothing too crazy, especially not for a 19-year-old in major junior. Three games later, however, Dellandrea had boosted his total to 37 on the strength of an incredible 11-point weekend with the Flint Firebirds, earning him OHL player of the week honors for the second week of December.
So it's safe to say he was riding high heading to Canada's selection camp for the World Junior Championship. Dellandrea was one of four players cut from camp prior to the 2019 tournament in Vancouver, and while older players typically get chosen over younger, similarly skilled talent, Dellandrea wasn't a lock for the team that will be skating in the Czech Republic later this month. A sports hernia prevented Dellandrea from participating in the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth in August, putting him a step behind the competition early. That was, of course, until he made the Barrie Colts, Sudbury Wolves and North Bay Battalion look like a bunch of bozos during that multi-game stretch.
"It helped me gain some confidence coming in, so it’s nice to have a weekend like that," Dellandrea said during selection camp in Oakville, Ont., last week. "Just finding some touch and putting the puck in the back of the net. It felt good going on that little run before coming (to selection camp)."
Making Canada's world junior team is a massive boost for a kid who hasn't seen much team success in major junior. The Firebirds failed to make the post-season the past two seasons and are just a mid-pack Western Conference team right now, with the club's 36 points putting them six points behind the Guelph Storm for first but six ahead of the Sarnia Sting for last in the conference. At a time when many of the Firebirds' best have wanted out of Flint for off-ice reasons, Dellandrea has taken things in stride and has taken on the role as the team's captain when he could have easily asked for a trade to a contender.
"There were some tough seasons, but I think that adversity has helped me get to where I am today and it will help me in the long run," Dellandrea said. "Those years have been about learning, but I think it will help our team and myself going forward."
Dellandrea has represented Canada on four previous occasions with various degrees of success, both personal and individual. He had five points in five games at the U-18 World Championship in 2018, helping to solidify him as a first-round pick by Dallas later that year (13th overall), but had underwhelming performances at other U-17 and U-18 events. When Canada won the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in 2017, Dellandrea failed to record a point.
A strong CIBC Canada Russia Series performance, where Dellandrea scored a goal and created a few other opportunities in two games, helped earn the coaching staff's trust. For Canada's first exhibition game against Switzerland, Dellandrea skated on a line with Liam Foudy and Aidan Dudas, who didn't play during selection camp due to a hand injury, and then centered Canada's top line against U Sports last week, skating alongside Connor McMichael and Alex Newhook. Dellandrea created a few scoring chances in that contest, but with just 12 shots total for Canada, there wasn't much to take out of it. To make the team as a center, though, when 11 of the team's 15 forwards play the position for their respective clubs makes a statement.
The skills Dellandrea developed as Flint's go-to man the past few seasons will allow him to fill a good workman's role in the Czech Republic. Canada won't rely on him to score – the line of Dellandrea-Foudy-Dudas will be more of a hard-working, lunchpail crew – but Dellandrea's exposure to the hardships of poor on-ice performance has given him a drive to succeed on the biggest stage of his hockey career. With his sights set on going pro next year and an OHL championship likely out of reach, this is Dellandrea's time to finally be rewarded for his patience and hard work, something for which he has been waiting for a long time.
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