Five years ago, Tye Felhaber seemed destined to be an NHL draft pick. Highly touted when he came into major juniors as the 10th overall pick in the 2014 Ontario Hockey League Priority Draft, Felhaber looked like a good bet to get selected in the NHL Draft two years later.
But it never happened.
It took a breakout 2018-19 season, in which Felhaber scored 59 goals in 68 games, for NHL teams to line up to try to sign him as a free agent. Sweepstakes the Dallas Stars won when they locked up Felhaber to an entry-level deal in March.
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For Felhaber, the road to landing an NHL deal took longer than he and others probably expected.
"Everybody takes their own time," Felhaber said. "I felt I was a late bloomer."
And if Felhaber, who turns 21 in August, can continue to blossom that would be good news for the Stars. The 6-foot, 189-pound forward, a left-handed shooting winger, has some nice tools.
"Phenomenal finish," said Rich Peverley, Stars player development coordinator. "He's quick. He's hard to check."
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Felhaber provided a brief scouting report on himself as well.
"More of an offensive guy," Felhaber said. "High skill, likes to make plays and likes to shoot the puck. Anytime in the slot, I like to shoot the puck."
Felhaber's 59 goals ranked second in the OHL this past season and his 103 points tied for third. He tied for first with a plus-56 rating, and he was fifth with 300 shots on goal.
It was a spectacular season, one that resulted from Felhaber making the most of new opportunities and putting in some hard work after setbacks earlier in his junior career. After a solid rookie season in 2014-15 in which he scored 20 goals in 63 games with Saginaw, Felhaber stagnated the next season and his stock dropped for the 2016 NHL Draft, and he was not selected.
But about five months after Felhaber was passed over in the draft his fortunes began to take a positive turn.
Early in the 2016-17 season, the then 18-year-old forward was traded within the OHL from the Saginaw (Michigan) Spirit to the Ottawa 67s. The trade brought Felhaber closer to his hometown of Pembroke, Ontario and it presented a fresh opportunity under head coach André Tourigny, who took over behind the Ottawa bench the following season.
"Once I got my opportunity in Ottawa, the whole staff did a really good job developing me as a player," Felhaber said. "Just having that confidence and giving me that confidence that I can be that type of player that I was back in minor hockey. A lot of it was confidence, and a lot of it was learning the game as well.
"I improved my 200-foot game, and doing that, I think I gave myself a lot more offensive opportunities."
Felhaber also committed to getting into better shape. He started to work out with fitness expert Tony Greco.
"He took me going into my 19-year-old year and kind of changed around my career," Felhaber said. "He turned around my fitness and my eating habits and turned me into an overall pro."
And working with Greco allowed Felhaber to be around NHL players like Claude Giroux and other professional hockey players.
"They are guys I could look up to every day," Felhaber said.
The changes started to pay dividends in 2017-18 when Felhaber tallied 70 points (31 goals, 39 assists) in 68 games with Ottawa, almost doubling his career-best of 38 points in the OHL. That earned him an amateur tryout with the Laval Rocket, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, at the end of the season, but it didn't turn into a pro contract, and it was back to juniors for an overage season with Ottawa in 2018-19.
And what a season it was.
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Felhaber had a breakout campaign and flirted with history for a while as he was on a pace to score 70 goals, something only seven players have done in the OHL since 1980 with the last two being John Tavares (2006-07) and Eric Lindros (1990-91). That drew the attention of a lot of NHL teams, about 20 of them Felhaber told the Canadian Press at one point during the season. But he settled on the Stars and put his name on a three-year, entry-level deal on March 1.
"They were really easy to deal with, and I heard nothing but good things about Dallas," Felhaber said. "Everybody in the organization welcomed me, even on the phone during my interview. They seemed like the best fit for me, not only as an organization but with the people that were interviewing me."
Felhaber eventually cooled off in the goal-scoring department as the season moved along and ended up with the 59 in 68 games. But he caught fire again in the playoffs and led all OHL players in postseason goal scoring with 17 in 18 games as the 67s advanced to the OHL finals, sweeping their first three series before falling to Guelph in six games in the championship series.
Now, Felhaber is set to turn pro this coming season. He's expected to start with the Texas Stars of the AHL, where Dallas hopes he'll continue to trend upward in his development.
"I think he's going to make a good transition, especially because of his age," Peverley said. "You score 50-something goals, that's hard to do for anybody. And he had  two years ago, so he's a great find for us."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.