Ty Dellandrea isn't afraid of a little hard work.
The first-round selection of the Stars (13th overall) Friday at the NHL Draft earned a lot of respect from Dallas scouts and front-office personnel when he made the decision to go to a struggling Flint Firebirds team in the Ontario Hockey League and roll up his sleeves. While Flint, which was taken over by the league in 2015 when its owner was suspended, finished 20-43-3-2 last season, Dellandrea kept a positive attitude in his second season and led the team in goals with 27 while scoring 59 points in 67 games.
[COMPLETE COVERAGE: Dellandrea wears Stars jersey for first time in Dallas | Draft Central]
"He went to a team that was a mess, and he said, 'I want to be part of this,' and he helped to change the culture," Stars GM Jim Nill said. "Then to watch when he did go to the tournaments and played with better players, he was an elite player and showed his skill. The prospect games, the under-18s … he really got to flourish in those situations."
Dellandrea is a 17-year-old center who shoots right and is listed at 6-feet, 184 pounds, so he has some growing up and filling out to do. He is expected to return to Flint for next season and might even need two more years in the OHL before he jumps up to the AHL.
Video: Stars draft F Ty Dellandrea No. 13
That said, Nill didn't want to put any restrictions on the talented pivot.
"We're not worried about the risk with him at all. He's just going to continue to flourish as his game goes," Nill said "He's got great speed, he's competitive, he has really, really well-rounded skills. He plays both ends, plays a 200-foot game and is responsible."
The Stars were able to watch Dellandrea a great deal. He played with Stars draft pick Nick Caamano (fifth round in 2016) before Caamano was traded, and Flint has a lot of personnel connections to Nill's days in Detroit.
"We were fortunate, we had a lot of intel," Nill said. "We met his billets when I was at one of the game. He's in (director of amateur scouting) Joe McDonnell's area all the time, so he was well scouted."
Video: Nill gives his thoughts on the Stars' 1st round pick
Dellandrea was projected to go later in the draft, so he can be called a reach at 13th, but Nill said it's his belief that Dellandrea was in the mid-teens on the actual draft boards for NHL teams (which are not disclosed). While highly ranked players Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson fell to 11th and 12th, Nill said he didn't want to give up assets to try to move up.
"We still felt confident that Ty would be there and we knew we were in a pretty good spot,"Nill said. "I think in the scouting community he's pretty highly thought of and I think he's going to show the world that he deserved to be drafted where he was drafted."
His fighting spirit is a big reason why. Flint has been reeling after the incident in which the owner fired the entire coaching staff for not playing his son more, but Dellandrea has been a positive force in moving the team forward.
"I tried to take that responsibility and roll with it and leave it out there every night," he said of playing for the struggling team. "I think that responsibility helped me and let me be a bigger contributor to the team. To be able to go through not the greatest season but still be able to grow as a team and grow as an individual, I think that's something I've learned to do well and I've learned to handle adversity pretty well. It's been a good ride, and I've learned a lot."
Video: Montgomery gives thoughts on busy day for the Stars
Dellandrea said he models his game after Chicago center Jonathan Toews and is hopeful he can become a similar type player.
"I like the way he plays an all-around game," Dellandrea said. "He's a 200-foot player that takes pride in his D-zone, but also his offensive abilities are unbelievable. He plays with an extremely high compete level, and I think that is big, as well. That's who I try to model my game after."
Nill said he believes Dellandrea will be able to expand on those strengths going forward. He will participate in Stars Development Camp next week, will play in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in September and then join the Stars at training camp. If he continues to show the same attitude, the possibilities are endless.
"We think he's just kind of touching the edge of what he can become," Nill said. "There is a lot more to give, and we think he's going to reach that."
The center of the hockey universe will be in Texas on Friday and Saturday as the Stars host the 2018 NHL Draft™ presented by adidas for the first time ever at American Airlines Center. For complete Draft coverage, including the latest stories, videos and event information, click here.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.