Ty Dellandrea is hoping to lean on last year’s experience representing Canada as he gets set for this week’s U18 World Championship in Russia.
Dellandrea appeared in five games for Canada at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship where Canada lost 7-3 to Sweden in the quarterfinals. The 17-year-old was also part of the Canadian squad which defeated the Czech Republic to win gold at the Hlinka Memorial tournament last summer.
“I learned a lot last year and I think that helped in my success this year with Flint,” Dellandrea said. “The Hlinka and other games like the CHL Top Prospects game and now coming to this, I think it really helps a lot. Every day you try to learn something new and try to get better every day.”
The six-foot-one, 190-pound centre admitted last year’s Under-18 experience was eye-opening as he joined Team Canada as a 16-year-old.
“You come in last year as an underager and you’re in over your head,” he said. “You’re surrounded by guys that are older than you, played in the leagues more so it was a really good experience and it’s competitive out here, it’s fun playing with a lot of great players so it’s good fun.”
Dellandrea and defenceman Ty Smith are Canada’s only two returnees from last year’s U18 Worlds, but there’s no shortage of familiar faces as Ryan Merkley, Jack McBain, Kevin Bahl and Serron Noel all played alongside Dellandrea and Smith at last year’s Hlinka tournament.
The six skaters are a group head coach Don Hay hopes to see lead this year’s under-18 squad in search of its first medal at the tournament since 2015.
“This is your opportunity to be a leader, and you’ve got the experience of being over at the Hlinka, take the opportunity to be a leader,” Hay said of the message to the group. “What does a leader do? A leader prepares and a leader works – does all the right things and then just make sure everybody is just kind of looked after.”
Dellandrea is no stranger to being a leader on his team. This past season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Flint Firebirds he wore an ‘A’ as an alternate captain. The 2018 NHL Draft prospect also tries to emulate Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, in part, because of his leadership qualities.
Described as a 200-foot player, who is responsible in his own end, but can also contribute offensively, Dellandrea led the firebirds in scoring with 27 goals and 59 points in 67 games.
In January, at the annual CHL Top Prospects game, with the building full of NHL scouts, Dellandrea grabbed headlines by scoring twice in a 20-second span setting a record for the game.
Firebirds coach Ryan Oulahen saw Dellandrea’s game improve dramatically over the final two months of the regular season, but as the Port Perry, Ontario native looks to take his game to another level, he’s looking to round out his defensive play.
“As a centre, you’ve got to learn how to play away from the puck and really really be dialed in that way,” Oulahen said. “When you learn that, you find out you have the puck a lot more. I think not only for him, but every young guy in our league, it’s tough sometimes with the matchups we get, but I think there’s some improvement there.”
With the Firebirds finishing outside the playoff picture this spring, Dellandrea is hoping to use the upcoming international competition as another opportunity to showcase his game for scouts.
“Obviously you want to be in the playoffs, that’s the goal, but I think this is a great opportunity,” said Dellandrea. “You get to come here if you’re not playing in the playoffs and get to play the game longer. Anytime you get to play for Canada and play for this logo on your chest is something special you can’t describe. I just try to take every day in and live in the moment and work hard.”
In addition to building chemistry with his new teammates, Dellandrea admits going overseas, in a short tournament, there’s a lot to adjust to in a short tournament.
“You got to be careful because you know, especially European teams, super skilled, especially with that big ice, can be deadly,” Dellandrea said. “We’ve got to be strong defensively and use the ice to our advantage.
“You’ve got to get used to time change, we’re all used to playing in kind of central Canada so there’s a lot of factors you have to get used to: time change, plane ride, playing overseas, different ice, bigger ice, temperature – all that. I think Hockey Canada does the best job of making sure we’re ready for that – we have lots of resources.”
Off the ice, Dellandrea grew up playing a variety of sports from volleyball in school to lacrosse to help with the physical aspects of hockey.
These days Dellandrea is an avid mountain biker though he admits with his burgeoning hockey career, he tries to take it easy on the two-wheeler.
“I like to mountain bike in the summer in Durham Forest just by our house,” he said. “Do a lot of mountain biking. I take it a lot easier (now), that’s for sure, (but) I still get out, I use it as training so it’s nice.
“A little too cold to get on the mountain bike (right now). I actually got it all set up, but too cold to get out there. I was fiddling around with it a little bit, but too cold to get out there.”
It might be a while before Dellandrea has an opportunity to get back on the trails. Following the U18 Worlds, he’ll attend the NHL’s scouting combine in Buffalo followed by the NHL Draft where he’s expected to be a second or third round selection in Dallas.