When the Dallas Stars began training camp this season, the team split up into two main groups — the main roster and those bound for the AHL or taxi squad. Rookie Ty Dellandrea skated with the latter, signaling that the coaching staff perhaps didn’t feel he was quite ready for the NHL.
Two games and a COVID-19 breakout later, head coach Rick Bowness and his staff are singing a different tune. Filling in for Blake Comeau — who is still on the team’s COVID-19 protocol-related absence list — Dellandrea has been one of the most heavily-used forwards on the team. He made his NHL debut in the season opener against the Nashville Predators, Dellandrea was fifth in time on ice with 15:31 in all situations, factoring in on both the power play and penalty kill. And with what seemingly little even-strength time there was, he led all forwards with 12:13.
A cynic might attribute that to Jamie Benn’s injury and the Stars having blown out the Predators, but his ice time actually went up in his second game. His even-strength time (11:31) was only ninth among forwards, but he was sixth in all situations with 16:16. Perhaps more impressively, he was being utilized even late into the one-goal game, trusted to help Dallas hold the lead:
How much do the Dallas Stars coaches already trust Ty Dellandrea? Closing out a one-goal lead late against Nashville, here was some of Dellandrea's usage:— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) January 25, 2021
* defensive zone faceoff at even strength
* penalty kill
* defensive zone work when the Predators had an extra attacker out
After the game, Bowness had nothing but praise for the team’s rookie, and noted that the team will continue to lean on him moving forward:
“He had another solid game. This kid is full of confidence. We love it. He’s a National Hockey League player. Listen, he’s a rookie but he’s going to play a lot. You saw that we aren’t afraid to put him out in any situation. He’s very confident kid for a 20-year-old. He’s earning the minutes and they are well deserved. I have no problem putting him out in any situation – key faceoffs, key penalty kills, power plays, against really good lines. He can play center, right wing, he’s a big part of the future of this team.”
It’s not just the coaching staff that Dellandrea has impressed either — everyone in the locker room has taken notice, including veteran Joe Pavelski:
“I think you know going back to the bubble, he was a guy that you saw was excited to be there. In practice, with those guys, it was tough for them at times to show up every day and work hard. He came into camp and I think probably a lot of guys would say it, but it was that third or fourth day. Ty was running around. I think that he was one of the guys that cranked up our intensity in our camp early on. He is a player that’s young, but skates well, has good skill and is fearless out there. There was a shift where he blocked those couple of shots tonight. He’s not shying away from anything so that’s good to see.”
Dellandrea has been held off the scoresheet thus far, but the points will come with time. For now, he’s making an impact on the ice in every other way possible. His play is going to force the coaching staff to make some difficult decisions for their nightly lineup as players return to health in the coming weeks.