When Ty Dellandrea committed to the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, he did so knowing that he was stepping into a difficult situation.
As summed up in a June article on The Athletic:
When he was going through the OHL Draft process two years ago, Flint — which held the No. 5 pick — was undergoing some organizational strife. Its owner, Rolf Nielsen had been suspended for five years just days before the league’s 2016 draft, and it was only natural there might be some hesitation for a potential draftee. Dellandrea admitted as much.
But once his family’s questions were answered, that changed. He wasn’t necessarily searching for a rebuilding team, but he decided that it if Flint wanted him, he wanted to be loyal — regardless of their current situation.
“I think I wanted to be part of turning something around and getting Flint going on the right track,” Dellandrea said. “I think I’ve always been a highly-motivated kid and someone who sees a challenge and might jump at it just for the sake of the challenge. I really think I wanted to be part of the change and the turnaround.”
Well, Dellandrea is certainly getting that challenge he wanted.
The Firebirds finished second-last in the OHL last year with a record of 20-43-3-2, and it already looks like their 2018-19 season won’t be much better. Flint is the only winless team remaining in the OHL, with a record of 0-4. Even more concerning is their disastrous goal differential: six goals for, 26 against.
That being said, there’s an old saying that pressure makes diamonds. Because Flint is such a bad team Dellandrea, easily their best player, is going to get a lot of ice time and a lot of experience in all situations.
Boy, Ty Dellandrea is going to have a long, busy season ahead of him.— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) September 30, 2018
He took 22 faceoffs tonight for Flint against the London Knights. His next closest teammate took 7 draws. Every Firebird not named Dellandrea COMBINED? 21 faceoffs.
Flint lost 4-2
As tough as the going may be, persevering through his current situation might ultimately end up being the best thing for his development so long as he keeps working and maintains the right mindset. Godspeed, kid.
North American Juniors
Jason Robertson carried a fantastic performance at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament into the OHL season, scoring five goals in five games so far. His Kingston Frontenacs team lost some offensive firepower over the summer, so Robertson will have a heavy load to bear this year.
2017 4th rounder Liam Hawel isn’t one of the organization’s more well-known prospects, but if his start to the season isn’t just a flash in the pan then that’s going to change in a hurry. Hawel picked up four goals and four assists in his first four games of the year with the Guelph Storm. He’s pretty big at 6-foot-4, skates quite well for a player of his size, has soft hands and owns a dangerous wrist shot — in other words, his toolkit is pretty darn impressive. If he can keep putting everything to good use then he’ll quickly become a must-watch player this season.
Riley Damiani scored one goal in his first three games with the Kitchener Rangers. He’s playing a lot of minutes and taking a lot of faceoffs so far, so it looks like the young pivot is going to get a great opportunity to grow and develop a lot this season.
Brett Davis has three goals and four points after three games with the Kootenay Ice. The Ice struggled heavily last season and look like they still have a lot of work left to do. Expect Davis to play an integral role on the club and get a lot of reps in all situations.
2018 6th rounder Dawson Barteaux is lighting up the stat sheet to start his year, picking up eight points in five games for the Red Deer Rebels. The smooth puck-moving blueliner scored three points against the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday before posting a four-point game against the Calgary Hitmen on Sunday.
Check out the pass from Barteaux at the start of this gif:
Jakob Stenqvist is off to a nice start with Bjorkloven in Sweden’s second league, the Allsvenskan, recording four points in his first four games. Stenqvist showed flashes of his incredible skill in Traverse City, enough to earn a last-minute invitation to the Stars’ training camp, so don’t be surprised if he has a really big season over in Sweden.
2018 2nd rounder Albin Eriksson has started his season with Skelleftea in Sweden’s top league, the SHL. He has two assists in five games so far, despite playing less than 10 minutes per game.