A talented, tenacious forward from Ottawa who became Sudbury Wolves’ second-round pick in spring of 2020 after a stellar season with the Toronto Titans U16 squad, Delic was happy to sign with the OHL club just a few days later. With the 2020-21 season delayed and eventually cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, he was one of many Ontarians to seek out opportunities overseas, joining Karlskrona HK in Sweden’s J18 Region loop on a loan — only to watch that league put its season on hold, then cancel as well, due to rising case counts in the country.
Determined to see some action before the off-season, he signed on closer to home with the Navan Grads of the Central Canada Hockey League, one of a few junior A leagues in this province to play a limited schedule under modified rules. Then, shortly before his debut, the CCHL pulled the plug on its own season amid another round of COVID-related challenges.
But while Delic admitted to feeling some frustration over the string of cancellations, he came to see them as par for the course in what was certainly a strange year overall, and ultimately as part of his journey toward finally making his OHL debut in 2021-22.
He’s set to arrive in Sudbury this weekend, and to hit the ice at the Wolves’ rookie orientation camp on Monday.
“I remember talking to my parents about that, and then my agent,” Delic, 17, recalled in an interview this week. “We were hoping to get a start here, then I ended up going to Sweden since they were playing, but like a week after I got there, that league got shut down. Then I went to Ottawa and as we were about to play our first two games on the weekend, they got shut down, too, so it definitely seemed like I couldn’t get any games in. I definitely had some good experiences, though, going to Sweden, practising with them, and then playing in the CC a bit with the Ottawa guys.”
He eventually got into some real games, too — first at the PBHH Invitational Showcase, a player-organized event featuring several high-end juniors held in Erie, Penn., this past June, and showed well while recording four points in nine games. The fleet-footed 5-foot-10, 175-pounder also appeared at the Carnevale Hockey Group Showcase in the GTA this past weekend, posting impressive totals of two goals and two assists for a team-leading four points in four games.
“I remember thinking after, damn, it was good to play some hockey again,” Delic said of the recent CHG event.
“Especially since we didn’t play last season, I have been training on the ice every day I can, this summer and last summer, and I’m in the gym every day and I definitely think I have made huge jumps from two seasons ago, when my draft was. I’m definitely going to come in and be prepared for training camp and, hopefully, a good season and a long playoff run.”
His time at the two-week-long Erie showcase, in addition to offering a welcome tuneup, also gave the youngster a chance to get acquainted with some of his fellow Wolves.
“I spoke with Mitchell Weeks, Liam Ross and Owen Robinson, as well, I met all those guys and had some conversations with them,” Delic said. “They were all saying positive things about the city, the team and everything, and they were really great guys to talk to and to get to know.”
Since then, he has also spoken to several more of his future teammates, including many members of the 2004-born draft class, and with head coach Craig Duncanson and associates Darryl Moxam and Zack Stortini.
To prepare for a jump to the major-junior ranks, Delic has paid particular attention this summer to improving the already-impressive shot that helped him score 22 goals in 32 games in the Greater Toronto Hockey League two seasons ago, and on shoring up his defensive-zone play.
“I have done a bunch of video stuff, analyzing my own game and watching pro games and trying to follow a specific centreman or a winger in the D-zone, trying to get better with my mental play in the D-zone and just learning where to be at the right time,” he explained.
“I think I have improved a lot in those areas.”
While he expects an adjustment period, he hopes to earn more ice time and more responsibility as the season goes on.
“I’m looking to come in and help the team, to see where I fit on the team and go from there, but I want to be able to produce.”
After closing out rookie camp for 2005-, 2004- and select 2003-born players, the Wolves will open main camp for all returnees and prospects on Wednesday.