The Islanders have been trying to figure out who Michael Dal Colle for a long time now. Years of patience have led to flashes, but nothing outstanding.
But this year feels different.
No it’s not him elevating to the goal-scoring winger the team had hoped for when they drafted him fifth overall in 2014. Or him being a first-line guy, which was the projection of him coming out of juniors with the Oshawa Generals. What it is though is a player who’s been handed a primary role and is doing everything possible to not let it slip away. That comes from having confidence in himself, his game and the trust of head coach Barry Trotz.
Dal Colle, who missed the first four games of the year with an injury, has found himself a home on the second line with Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle after Trotz inserted him there following the team’s stoppage in the schedule because of COVID-19. He’s looked confident in his abilities alongside more skilled wingers, quite the opposite from the difficulty he looked to have last year wasting away on the third line.
In his first game on his new line, Dal Colle notched two assists and was using his frame and physicality in a menacing way. The games that have followed he has yet to look out of place.
What a play by Michael Dal Colle to set up Eberle’s second of the night. Wow. pic.twitter.com/rc0b3qakV6
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) February 7, 2021
Some who will argue that Dal Colle might not deserve a top-six spot based on the statline, 12 points in 93 career games and two points in eight games this year. And yes there are a faction of Islanders fans who are always going to want more from him. But Dal Colle’s style of play overpowers that narrative. He’s rounded into a sound 200-foot hockey player and he’s added some grit — one of Trotz’s favorite qualities in a player — and more size to the top-nine.
“[Dal Colle] is changing his mindset,” Trotz said two weeks ago. “I asked him to change his mindset to get ‘Let’s get to being a worker bee every day.’ What will happen is he’ll be more involved. He’ll start getting production from that because he’s not thinking about the production part, he’s thinking about just playing well and working and some of those natural skills he has will come out.”
There’s still three quarters left to go in the season, but the Isles looked like they have finally figured out what they have in Dal Colle. He’s found his place in the lineup and is putting using the attributes that will make him successful.
He’s also helping the team win. That’s the goal to all of this.
This version of Michael Dal Colle works for the Islanders.
Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_