Over the summer and fall, a lot of Dallas Stars fans were worried about Ty Dellandrea going back to the OHL for one more season.
You can’t really blame them. Dellandrea’s team, the Flint Firebirds, had been the league’s punching bag for years, seemingly out of the playoff race as soon as a season began. Would Dellandrea’s development be damaged through another year of his team getting kicked around?
But Flint’s management team knew two things with resolute clarity: that this team owed it to its fans to make a winning season, and that any success they had was going to run first and foremost through Dellandrea.
And so far this season, their plan is coming to fruition.
The Firebirds are sitting comfortably in a playoff position, and the play of their longtime No. 1 center has been absolutely essential in that process. He handily leads the team in scoring, with 57 points in 35 games, and continues to be their Mr. Everything, playing big minutes in all situations and on both sides of special teams.
He’s been on an especial tear since returning from the World Juniors at the start of this month, picking up 20 points in just eight games. I guess winning a gold medal for your country can put a spring in a player’s step.
His stellar return was recently recognized by his league, as he earned player of the week honors on Monday.
.@TyDellandrea has been named #OHL #OnTheRunPlayer of the Week! It's his second time this season, the third Firebird this campaign and just the 5th time ever for the #FlintFirebirds since 2015.— Flint Firebirds (@FlintFirebirds) January 27, 2020
Details: https://t.co/Dv9KD5pwEQ pic.twitter.com/AD9vrWNMox
If he’s this fired up upon returning from the World Juniors, just imagine how ready he’s going to be when Flint plays their first playoff game sine 2017.
North American Juniors
In a weekend showdown between two of the Stars’ top prospects, Thomas Harley and his Mississauga Steelheads school outgunned Riley Damiani and the Kitchener Rangers 5-4 in an overtime decision. Harley had the primary assists on the game-tying goal, which came with less than one minute remaining in the third period, and the overtime game-winner a few minutes later. Even though Kitchener lost this one, Damiani extended his ongoing point streak to eight games. Full highlights of the game can be found here and at the link in the tweet below.
FINAL/OT: @OHLRangers (4) at @OHLSteelheads (5)@FlaPanthers prospect @C_Schwinny10 ends the game with a natural hat-trick, tying the game in the final minute and winning it in OT.— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) January 27, 2020
: https://t.co/NAkHXz7BVb pic.twitter.com/O5NtfKvy0H
Curtis Douglas recently went on a nifty little four-game goal-scoring streak, which was ultimately snapped on Sunday in Windsor’s win over Sarnia. In that game, however, he did get involved in the action in another way — getting into a fight. Despite the advantages of his 6-foot-9, 240-pound frame, he had himself a pretty tough opponent: Kelton Hatcher, son of former Dallas captain Derian Hatcher.
Defenseman Dawson Barteaux seems to be acclimating well to his new digs, picking up eight points in six games since joining the Winnipeg Ice following a trade from the Red Deer Rebels. The Ice have won five of those six games, and sit in first place in the WHL’s East Division. Barteaux is No. 22 in the highlight package below.
Highlights | ICE 5 - Warriors 4 pic.twitter.com/kqPOhtyEjH— Winnipeg ICE (@WHLWpgICE) January 27, 2020
The Texas Stars entered this week’s AHL All-Star break sitting in a playoff position, fourth in the league’s Central Division.
Given how people — including myself! — were writing about Texas just two months ago, that’s nothing short of a miracle.
Credit where credit is due: this team doesn’t quit.
It wasn’t an especially glorious week that just passed for Texas, winning two games and losing two others. However, it’s pretty hard to be overly concerned when you realize that those are the only two games the team has lost in their past 10.
Despite goals from Jason Robertson and Joel Kiviranta, the Iowa Wild got the better of the Texas Stars on Monday in a 4-2 decision. Texas took a lead into the final 20 before being sunk by a third-period collapse.
They bounced back on Wednesday, however, in a 1-0 victory over the Rockford IceHogs. Riley Tufte finally potted his first professional goal, while Landon Bow stopped all 29 shots he faced to seal the deal. Maybe Tufte read my article about him?
The Chicago Wolves came out ahead in a similarly close contest on Friday, skating out of Cedar Park with a 2-1 win. Gavin Bayreuther had the lone Texas tally, assisted by Tye Felhaber and with Tufte setting up a massive screen in the crease.
But Bow wouldn’t let Texas head into the All-Star break on a sour note, absolutely stealing the rematch against Chicago, 5-3. His 34 saves were the difference for a team that was doubled up on shots on net.
Joel L’Esperance, who is currently tied with Emil Djuse for the team’s lead in points, was the Stars’ sole representative at this year’s All-Star festivities. He scored a couple of goals for the Central Division, who lost in the championship game to the Atlantic.
Power forward Albin Eriksson is on the move again, and after a brief and failed loan to MODO in the Allsvenskan in late 2019, hopefully this change of scenery ends up being a positive one. He’s now playing with Farjestad in the SHL alongside fellow Stars prospect and World Juniors linemate Oskar Back, so maybe that familiarity will help make the transition easier.
In a recent interview, Eriksson reflected a little bit on how his rough season — which included a suspension, an injury and some struggles to find ice time — has gone (the article was roughly translated into English by Google, so take it with a grain of salt):
In terms of playing time, it has been a tough fall. However, I feel in good shape and it has been good on every workout. I have not lost any confidence in myself and I do not feel at all that I would be a worse player. Rather the opposite. I think I’m a better player this year, more all-round than last year.
I know I can play at SHL level. I already felt that last season when things went well. That I know what I can but have not been able to show what I go for has been frustrating.
Fredrik Karlstrom has been playing a checking-line role this season for Vaxjo, but added a couple primary assists to his season totals over the weekend. One of them was pretty nice, using his size and skating to gain separation in the offensive zone, which can be seen at the 1:40 mark of this highlight package.
For a full database of the organization’s prospects and their stats, check out the Stars’ “In the System” page on Elite Prospects.