Thursday, February 28, 2019

Top Pick Ty Dellandrea Headlines Spring ATO Possibilities for Texas Stars

Ty Dellandrea (Credit: Dallas Stars)
Every season, Texas has at least a few amateur players added on tryout contracts. Many of these are drafted players getting a taste of the AHL before heading home for the summer. In 2015, I wrote a story about Texas’s ATO tradition for TheAHL.com. Not every one of these players will sign an ATO this season; this is just the list of possibilities.

Keep in mind that the Stars also usually add at least one player from college (generally a Michigan college) who was undrafted, such as Joel L’Esperance and Robbie Payne last season.

MAJOR JUNIOR

Ty Dellandrea (C)
Drafted: 2018, 13th overall
Flint Firebirds (OHL)

The Flint Firebirds are not making the playoffs. We can say that pretty confidently as they’ve been the worst team in the OHL for basically the entire season. Their one bright spot has been the play of Dallas’s first round pick in 2018, Ty Dellandrea. Despite being only 18, the center is eligible for a spring AHL stint as he is signed to an NHL contract and his amateur season will be over at that point. As of this writing, Dellandrea is 19-37=56 in 52 games for the Firebirds. With Texas hurting at forward, Dellandrea will absolutely play. His final regular season game this season in Flint is on March 17th.

Jason Robertson (LW)
Drafted: 2017, 39th overall
Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

With Dallas unable to score at times, many fans have pointed to Robertson as a solution. While that represents a pretty significant misunderstanding of call up conventions, having Robertson join the AHL club this spring is possible but not probable. Since being traded to Niagara, Robertson has 61 points in just 29 games. He was traded, of course, to solidify Niagara’s position in the OHL and cement their likely berth in the conference finals. Unless Texas goes very deep or something unexpected happens in the OHL playoffs, Robertson is going to be playing big minutes in Niagara this spring. That’s what Dallas would prefer for his development anyways.

Tye Felhaber (LW/C)
Undrafted free agent signing
Ottawa 67s (OHL)

The team ahead of Robertson’s IceDogs? That would be Tye Felhaber’s 67s. Felhaber was an undrafted pickup midseason by Dallas. While they have not officially announced the signing, it has been reported by The Athletic, and the team has not contradicted the reporting. Felhaber has an eye-popping 55-43=98 in 59 games. However, Dallas certainly hopes that he and Robertson meet in the OHL conference finals.

Jermaine Loewen (RW/LW)
Drafted: 2018, 199th overall
Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

When drafted last summer, Loewen was a great story. He was an overage draft entrant at 20 years old and has joint Canadian and Jamaican citizenship. He is the captain of the Blazers this season. The WHL follows the NHL’s division/wild card playoff format and Kamloops is right on the line for a wild card position, trailing the last team in by five points with two games in hand. Loewen is 21-12=33 in 48 games with Kamloops last regular season game on March 16th. This is his overage year, so it’s his final WHL season no matter what.

Liam Hawel (C)
Drafted: 2017, 101st overall
Guelph Storm (OHL)

Hawel’s Storm have already clinched a playoff berth and currently sit fourth in their conference. The fourth rounder is a prolific point producer with 33-35=68 in 57 games. Same things apply here as apply for Robertson. Dallas would rather Hawel play big meaningful minutes in the OHL playoffs than sit in the press box in Cedar Park. Still, if the Storm are knocked out early, I would circle Hawel for an ATO.

Brett Davis (RW)
Drafted: 2017, 163rd overall
Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

Red Deer is tied for the final wild card spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Davis was traded mid-season from Kootenay, currently owners of a .267 win percentage, to Red Deer. Since then, he’s exploded offensively, earning 11-14=25 in 32 games. Again, if his team doesn’t make it, he’ll be strong candidate as this is his fourth year in major junior. The Rebels’ final regular season game is on March 17th.

COLLEGIATE
College is a little bit more of a wildcard because the players can’t sign anything until they are completely ready to be done with college. Amateurism rules in the NCAA apply here just the same as football. Therefore, none of the below players have been signed.

Rhett Gardner (C)
Drafted: 2016, 116th overall
University of North Dakota (NCAA/NCHC)

Gardner is a hard-nosed forward for UND. The Moose Jaw native, whose 24th birthday is today, has 14 points in 31 games this season. UND is under .500 on the season, but the playoff format of the NCHC gives anyone a chance to win the conference. The first round of the conference tournament is the weekend of March 15-17 with the whole thing wrapping up by March 23rd. UND is also ranked 20th in the nation and a good conference tourney showing could put them in the national tournament conversation.

Riley Tufte (C)
Drafted: 2016, 25th overall
University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA/NCHC)

Tufte’s UMD Bulldogs are in much better shape in the tournament conference than UND. Owning second place currently, they are likely to make the national tournament regardless of whether they win the conference tournament. They rank 3rd in the nation currently behind conference rival St. Cloud State and Massachusetts. The Frozen Four tournament concludes April 13th. Tufte has 13 points in 30 games this season.

Jake Oettinger (G)
Drafted: 2017, 26th overall
Boston University (NCAA/Hockey East)

Often mentioned as the goalie of the future for the Dallas Stars, Oettinger has been the starter and alternate captain for his BU Terriers this season. The Terriers are midpack but will play in the Hockey East tournament, which ends March 23rd. BU won last season.

Joseph Cecconi (D)
Drafted: 2015, 133rd overall
University of Michigan (NCAA/Big Ten)

There has been some rumbling online about Cecconi’s potential to eschew his drafted team and move forward as a college free agent. Dallas does not seem concerned. They like the player. Cecconi (3-16=19 in 32 games) is the shutdown guy for 2018 first rounder Quinn Hughes (VAN). Michigan is having an off season but the same rules apply where every team has a shot in the conference tournament. The Big Ten tourney ends March 23rd.

EUROPE
Players coming in from Europe are most likely to get practice time, press box time and get their development plan for the summer. Having played a full season against grown men, Dallas doesn’t usually play these guys. Notable exceptions would be Mattias Janmark and Mattias Backstrom.

Fredrik Karlstrom (C)
Drafted: 2016, 90th overall
Linköping (SHL)

Linköping is on the edge of qualifying for the best-of-3 for the last two playoff spots in the SHL. Karlstrom, who has 4-6=10 in 38 games, would be occupied until mid-March in that case, longer if the club is successful in making the 8-game portion of the playoffs.

Jakob Stenqvist (D)
Drafted: 2016, 176th overall
IF Björklöven (Allsvenskan)

Stenqvist (6-14=20 in 49 games) is in the SHL’s second league, Allsvenskan, where Björklöven is neither likely to make the playoffs or be relegated. As such, Stenqvist’s season figures to be over when the regular season ends on March 8th.

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