The future of the Dallas Stars could very well be coming out of the OHL.
After all, their prospects are well represented in the league by an all-star group that includes Flint Firebirds captain Ty Dellandrea, Mississauga Steelheads standout defenceman Thomas Harley, and Kitchener Rangers leader Riley Damiani.
Coming off strong seasons, all three are hungry to take their talent to the next level.
Dellandrea got a taste of the pro experience when he suited up for 11 games with the Texas Stars following the conclusion of the Firebirds’ season last year.
“That was a fun experience, going up and playing pro games and just being able to live the pro lifestyle for a little bit,” he said. “I learned a lot from those guys and how they carry themselves, and the pro game was something to learn too.”
Overtime winner ✅
Filthy move from @tydellandrea ✅🤮
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 12, 2020
In his fourth season with the Firebirds, he helped lead the team to second in the West Division with the winningest season in their five-year history, climbing to the top of club records in career points and goals along the way. Following a dismal showing at the bottom of the Western Conference last year, the Firebirds’ dominant 40-21-1-1 season has been a long time coming, and according to Dellandrea, is a credit to changes made at the beginning of the season along with a confidence that stemmed from training camp and only grew with the team’s hot start.
Dellandrea and the Firebirds play the likes of the similarly accomplished Rangers four times a year. Facing off against Damiani comes with an added bonus of eagerness.
“Whenever we play each other it’s fun and you know someone’s watching so you have to have a good game,” said Dellandrea, drafted 13th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. “We push each other and we have a lot of fun together.”
Having shared many experiences with Damiani that include suiting up on the same U17 team and playing for Team OHL at the CIBC Canada/Russia Series, going through the NHL camp process with a familiar face and conference rival makes it all the more fun.
“It’s fun getting drafted with him and going through the same NHL camp and along with Harley, who was my roommate,” Dellandrea said. “We had some memorable experiences in camp together.”
At second in the Midwest Division, Damiani, who was selected in the fifth round by the Stars in 2018, led a red hot Rangers squad to quite the turnaround. The Blueshirts found themselves outside of playoff contention prior to an early season coaching change that saw general manager Mike McKenzie take the reins.
With regards to having his sights set on the NHL in the same vein as Dellandrea and Harley, Damiani spoke to the positive character of both players.
— CanadianHockeyLeague (@CHLHockey) November 28, 2019
“They bring out the best in you. They put smiles on their faces every single day and come to the rink to get work done, but are always keeping it loose, keeping it fun,” he said.
“Ty is just an all around great guy who brings a lot to the table, and same with Tom. He’s a quirky guy, a great guy to be around.”
Over in the Eastern Conference, Harley stood out on the Mississauga blue line with an consistent 57 (18-39—57) points in 59 games.
Drafted 18th overall at last summer’s NHL Draft, he was sure to pay attention to the strengths of the defence corps at the NHL level and emphasized the confidence he took away from his camp experience.
“I tried to soak in everything. I was watching guys Klingberg, Heiskanen, and Lindell, who are really, really good defencemen,” Harley said.
“Each day you’re there you’re getting comfortable, you’re getting a little bit better, you’re getting a little more familiar with your surroundings.”
READ 🗞: https://t.co/D9lQUd3K88 pic.twitter.com/KMXX8bTLUJ
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) January 24, 2020
And as for getting to share the NHL journey with the other two, he echos Damiani’s sentiments.
“I definitely got to know them real well for a couple weeks at development camp and then training camp again. They’re both great guys,” said Harley.
It remains to be seen when they’ll be able to hit the ice next, but when they do, they’ll be giving it their all for a chance to bring their past lessons and success to the NHL stage while wearing the green, and at some point, hopefully all together.