Sometimes the Hockey Gods are not fair. Generally, they try to even out bad breaks and fortuitous bounces over the course of an 82-game season. When it comes to certain individuals, the Hockey Gods can be downright cruel. No one knows what Ty Dellandrea did to anger them, but he has felt their wrath for a while.
Some considered Dellandrea a surprise choice when Dallas selected him 13th overall in the 2018 Draft. Behind closed doors, Stars scouts loved the intangibles as well as the talent. Despite playing for a last-place Flint Firebird team, the 17-year-old led his OHL team in goals, finished 2nd in overall scoring, and played with a fire and intensity that was not indicative of the team’s season-long performance. During his time in Flint, the organization had major issues on and off the ice. Dellandrea, now a team captain, did not abandon the organization although no one would have blamed him if he did. His one real taste of success was at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship when he won a Gold Medal as a member of team Canada.
As we all know, 2020 is now remembered as the year the world turned upside-down. It’s also the year Ty Dellandrea’s hockey career did the same. When the NHL returned from the COVID pause, the rookie was part of the group that went to the bubble in Edmonton. Being around the team on the way to the Stanley Cup final was an amazing learning experience, but it’s hard to improve when most of your time is spent practicing against the same “Black Aces” every day.
The next season, as the NHL tried to navigate the choppy waters of COVID protocol, taxi squads were introduced as a way to keep rosters with the necessary amount of players to be viable. Again, Dellandrea was with the NHL team but not with the NHL team. Ty did score his first NHL goal that season, but for the most part, was a practice squad guy. For a young unestablished player, it was the worst scenario possible. Rust creeps in, game time reaction slows and any progress grinds to a halt. “He lost a full year of development because of the Taxi Squad,” said a member of the Stars front office. Through no fault of his own, Dellandrea needed to take a step back to the AHL, play every night, and earn back his hockey sense.
Most Stars scouts will say it took half a season in Cedar Park for Dellandrea to play like a top prospect again. He finished 2nd on the Texas squad in scoring and earned a call-up for the Stars playoff match-up vs Calgary. Dellandrea was called into emergency action for game #7 and impressed with his play that night. In his post-season evaluation, Dellandrea was told this was the year to make the permanent leap to the NHL.
Fueled with this knowledge, the 22-year-old took his training to a new level. Working at the Gary Roberts High-Performance Training Center (the same program that elevates the fitness of Connor McDavid and Steven Stamkos, just to name two), Dellandrea came into camp ready to fulfill his hockey destiny.
One of the more noticeable of a crop of talented youngsters, Dellandrea’s ascension seemed assured. A solid performance in his first preseason outing was followed by a better showing against Minnesota. During the first 20 minutes, the former first-rounder engaged in puck battles, won two of three face-offs, and scored a short-handed goal while killing a Wild power play. When trying to prove you belong in the NHL, little things matter, like blocking shots. Midway through his 12th shift of the night, Dellandrea threw his body in front of a shot from the point. This time, the puck went up high and deflected off the glove. Dellandrea immediately went down the tunnel and did not return. After the game, Stars Coach Pete DeBoer announced the shot had broken a bone. The only silver lining is no surgery is needed and it looks like a 2-3 week healing process. But for now, Ty’s ascension to the NHL is once again put on hold.
“That’s the NHL. I think he’s put on a good show, and he got injured doing what we asked him to do, which is blocking a shot and playing hard. That’s how you’ve got to play the game. If you’re going to get injured, now is a better time than two or three weeks from now. I liked his game tonight, and he’s had a good camp,” said DeBoer.
It’s not the first time bad luck has thrown an obstacle in the path of Ty Dellandrea. One of the intangibles the Stars loved when drafting him was his mental strength. While it appears he won’t be cracking the roster for Opening Night, there is a long season ahead. At some point in 2022-23, if bad luck doesn’t intervene, Dellandrea will make his reemergence in a Dallas Stars uniform, only this time to stay. The Hockey Gods have played around long enough, it’s time to go pick on someone else.