With the draft fast approaching, there seems to be a general consensus as to who the top centremen in the draft are. Names like Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joe Veleno, Barrett Hayton, and Rasmus Kupari have dominated the discussions on the top pivots in this year’s crop, and are the first to come up when a team is in need of reinforcement down the middle.
But there’s another player whose tools should have him in that same conversation with those four, and it’s Ty Dellandrea.
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario
Date of birth: July 21, 2000
Weight: 190 lbs.
Team: Flint Firebirds (OHL)
The Flint Firebirds centreman didn’t have a great statistical season, and that didn’t help him get many first-round projections from scouting services. It is hard to place a prospect so far ahead of his peers if his play on the ice doesn’t translate as much on the scoreboard. He only recorded 59 points in 67 games. Of those 59, 27 were goals, but this production was not enough to be convinced of his talent at first look.
One thing that didn’t play into his favour was that the Firebirds are a bit of an infamous organization. This year they struggled again, finishing in the bottom of the OHL with an abysmal goal differential. As a result, Dellandrea didn’t have the same supporting cast — or the exposure — of a player like Barrett Hayton who played on the stacked Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds team that enjoyed a long playoff run after dominating in the regular season.
To put his totals in perspective, Dellandrea still finished second on his team in scoring, only behind Maurizio Colella, a player more than three years his senior. He also participated in almost a third of his team’s scoring and finished as its top goal-scorer.
The centreman was undeniably the team’s offensive driver whenever he was on the ice. Combining skill and a high-energy game, he is able to get the puck back and take it the other way, getting it across the opposition blue line with speed and great handling ability.
Dellandrea’s hands and feet work very well together. He can surprise defenders off the rush with some great moves or just straight fly past them if they misjudged their approach on him. The centreman is also not afraid to take the main entrance to the offensive zone, forcing his way through the middle of the ice and making the opposing defence back up. This opens space for his trailing forwards, springing them for shots on net with drop passes or feeds to the slot.
Dellandrea is equal parts scorer and playmaker. He has a great vision of the ice and can make decisions very quickly under pressure, locating teammates in scoring areas in an instant if need be.
He doesn’t make good use of deception as the top playmakers in this draft do, but still creates great occasions for his teammates due to his quick passes and ability to drag defencemen out of position by challenging them with his hands and skating, creating more space for his linemates.
Dellandrea combines speed, a great acceleration, and impressive four-way mobility. This serves his 200-foot game very well, especially on the forecheck. The centreman showcases a strong ability to anticipate opposing moves and can be on them in an instant. As a result, he creates his fair share of turnovers deep in the offensive zone and while recovering on the backcheck.
This sequence at the Under-18 World Championship illustrates well what Dellandrea brought to team Canada. He is highly disruptive and relentless; a pain to deal with for the other team. He helped the national team create more offence from his play away from the puck.
He accelerates through the neutral zone to pressure the defenceman gone to retrieve the puck, something he successfully does as the opponent never manages to gain full control of it and instead rushes a drop pass. The forward then correctly guesses that the Swedes would attempt a lateral pass and cuts it in the slot, where he finds himself with a chance almost alone with the goalie.
This is where he displays his potential as a playmaker. He doesn’t chip the puck on net like a lot of players would do in this situation. He recognizes that he has help on his left side and crosses his hands to slide the puck behind his back for a much better shot opportunity coming from the stick of his teammate.
There were a few sequences like this at the U18s where Dellandrea’s motor worked to suffocate the rush attempts of opposing teams. It was also why he was used on the penalty kill, where he also managed to turn puck steals into scoring opportunities.
The centreman’s in-zone defensive game isn’t perfect yet, but a part of the positioning mistakes can be attributed to the defensive structure of Flint as a whole. With his quickness, his size, and the ability that he has shown defensively off the rush, it’s likely that Dellandrea can also become a solid player in his zone as he matures.
The numbers tracked as part of Mitch’s Brown CHL comparison project are extremely impressive for Dellandrea. They are comparable to the very top players in the draft.
He seems to be elite at carrying the puck in the offensive zone and contributes very well to his team’s scoring attempts once he gets in, both by shooting on net himself and passing to his teammates in scoring areas. He also generates more scoring chances for his team than the opposition when he is on ice.
The comparison to Hayton across the same stats and sample size is also very interesting. Dellandrea surpasses one of the consensus top centres in the draft in almost every category — offensively and defensively.
Future Considerations: #27
ISS Hockey: #43
McKeen’s Hockey: #32
Hockey Prospect: #29
NHL Central Scouting: #25 (NA Skaters)
Dellandrea is a breakout candidate for next year, especially if Flint can fix some of their issues (or if the organization decides to move him to a more competitive team). His lack of production in 2017-18 shouldn’t only be attributed to his environment, but that factor can’t be ignored when projecting the centreman. His late birthday is also important to consider.
Dellandrea’s tools should have him go much higher than where he is currently listed. He could very well make a lot of organizations regret not taking a flyer on him in the first round as he blossoms into one of the OHL’s top players.
He is a great skater and puck-handler. That, combined with his work ethic and his vision of the ice make him a potentially dominant player at any level, and a potential top-six centre for an NHL team for years to come.
If he falls to the second round, he is a must-take for the Habs. Trading up to get him, forfeiting a third-round pick or even one of the late second-rounders could be worth it considering the asset Montreal would be getting.
Walking out on Saturday with Ty Dellandrea added to their prospect pool would be a huge win for the team and help fill a gigantic need for the organization.