IslesBlog Exclusive: Story by Thomas de Luca
John Tavares, Cal Clutterbuck, and Calvin de Haan have all passed through the Oshawa Generals system in the Ontario Hockey League, en route to the NHL. With training camp just a few weeks away, Michael Dal Colle is poised to be the next member of that productive pipeline.
The 5th pick in the 2014 Draft, Dal Colle is coming off perhaps his best junior season, in which he tallied 93 points (42 goals) over 56 games played. His 51 assists tied him for the team lead.
“Everybody that we play against discusses Michael before our games.”
With so many ‘helpers’, the 19 year old forward is seen as a player who elevates the play of those around him, “[Michael] is a guy that isn’t always a shooter,” said Generals GM and Vice President; Roger Hunt, “[He] looks to set guys up, he makes players better around him,” added Hunt.
Not only did Dal Colle experience a lot of personal success on the ice during this past season, but as a team, the Generals would go on to win the Memorial Cup. “Everybody that we play against discusses Michael before our games,” said Hunt. Dal Colle would finish tied for second in OHL playoff scoring with 31 points, only Connor McDavid would earn more.
After an impressive regular season and tournament, many Islanders fans are wondering if Dal Colle could crack the NHL roster out of training camp. Despite his skill, that could be asking a lot, considering Dal Colle is only 19 years of age.
“He won’t want to disappoint the Islanders, he won’t want to disappoint his family, he won’t want to disappoint the Oshawa Generals.”
Hunt believes that there is usually a lot of pressure for players in Dal Colle’s position to live up to the expectations of fans and teams. While there may be pressure from others to perform, Hunt believes that most of the pressure Dal Colle will face will come from his character, “He won’t want to disappoint the Islanders, he won’t want to disappoint his family, he won’t want to disappoint the Oshawa Generals.”
Despite facing those pressures, Hunt says that they won’t hinder Dal Colle, “His personality is conducive to being able to handle pressure.”
If he could defeat the challenge of training camp, earning a spot on the Islanders roster would also create new challenges for Dal Colle, “There’s a lot of growing up to do,” Hunt said.
Not only do players coming out of juniors have to adapt on the ice, but off of it. In juniors, players are billeted; they live with host families. When players come to the NHL, they are completely on their own – whether they decide to live with another player, or by themselves. Players also have to adjust to the daily routines of being a professional athlete. The OHL typically plays its games from Thursday – Sunday, to allow players to focus on academics.
Should Dal Colle struggle or need guidance, Hunt envisions “an extensive support group” among the players, to help Dal Colle through the vigor of the pro game. John Tavares holds the Generals record for goals with 183 and has become an accomplished NHL player, having finished a finalist for the league’s MVP trophy multiple times. He is the perfect role model for Dal Colle and he could be quite the compliment.
“They both have incredible vision,” Hunt said of the two forwards, “They are both offensively gifted.” The “international hockey superstar”, Tavares, is something that Dal Colle “hopes to get to.”
With a void on the Islanders top line, Dal Colle may get a chance to skate with Tavares in the preseason and potentially in the regular season, should he make the team. Regardless, another highly skilled forward is a huge plus for the Islanders to have.
“He had a great season, winning the Memorial Cup,” Islanders GM Garth Snow recently told NHL.com’s Brian Compton. “He’s a huge part of this team, obviously. The luxury we have now is we’ve been so fortunate in the drafts that we’ve had is we have a tremendous amount of depth at all positions. We’ll never discount any young player from making our club out of training camp. Really, Michael’s performance will dictate that. That’s why you have training camp: It gives every team an opportunity to see how players perform at the highest level.”
With a limited number of roster spots available this September, it will be tough for the Woodbridge, Ontario native to play his way into the pros. But despite the pressures and adversity of being young and inexperienced, Hunt believes that if anyone could get passed it, its Michael Dal Colle, “If anyone is capable of doing it, I think that Michael’s skill set and talent would lend itself to that.”