To the surprise of some Islanders fans, Garth Snow elected to keep the #5 pick and use that pick to select Oshawa Generals forward Michael Dal Colle. As readers of this blog know, I was in favor of Garth doing exactly this.
Every year before the draft, I select three or four players who I think will be the best fit for the Islanders in the early rounds. Dal Colle was one of the four whose name I circled. (Weirdly enough, so was Joshua Ho-Sang, who we picked up later in the first round. The other two were Florida’s Aaron Ekblad and Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko.)
But how much do you know about our top draft pick? Many of you were pushing for Nicholas Ritchie or Jake Virtanen. What does Dal Colle have to do to prove to you, the fans, that he was the right pick for the organization?
To me, he already has proven his worth. And here is how.
He’s mature beyond his years.
Everyone’s heard his story. He’s been through more than most 18-year-olds, and for that matter, most professional athletes. His brother Jonluca is autistic, and his mother is a breast cancer survivor. And yet, somehow, he is able to use his family’s struggle to motivate him to tear up the Ontario Hockey League. While there’s no guarantee anyone from this class minus Ekblad will play in the NHL this season, given what the Isles need, I’d say Dal Colle makes the team out of training camp because he’s so far ahead of his draft class maturity-wise.
He’s friends with many current Islanders.
Don’t take his lack of emotion at the draft too seriously; that’s just his demeanor. Backstage, he was smiling and bragging to Ekblad about how he would be playing in Brooklyn. Like John Tavares, Cal Clutterbuck, and Calvin de Haan, Dal Colle played with the Oshawa Generals, and has become friends with each of them over his time with the club. Dal Colle was also seen backstage talking on the phone to Tavares and Kyle Okposo, his future linemates. If you think he doesn’t want to be an Islander, think again, because he’s going to be with us for years to come.
He’s played with NHL talent for years, and can work with anyone.
Look at who his centermen were in Oshawa. Boone Jenner, a promising young rookie for Columbus. Tyler Biggs, who will likely make Toronto’s roster after a year in the AHL. Scott Laughton, a Philadelphia prospect who was debatably the best player in the OHL this season. Dal Colle has said that playing with Oshawa, Laughton especially, has helped him grow as a player and improve facets of his game he needed to work on. Imagine how much he’d learn with someone like Tavares centering him.
He’s a damn good hockey player.
And I’m sure we all can agree on that. As a rookie in the 2012-13 season, he put up a very respectable 48 points and a plus-19 rating, earning him a spot on the OHL’s All-Rookie First Team. He finished fourth among 2014 draftees with 39 goals and 95 points this season, and followed that up with 20 more points in the playoffs. With Dal Colle on the first line, Oshawa finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping Ritchie’s Peterborough Petes in the process.
Whereas Samuel Bennett, Sam Reinhart, and Leon Draisaitl are hit-or-miss players, Dal Colle has shown he has all the tools to make a big impact in the NHL. As much as Garth Snow has been panned for his drafting abilities (minus Tavares), this year, he got a player who will be a fan-favorite in blue and orange for years to come.
Follow me on Twitter! @baskincase