New York Islanders: It’s Now or Never for Michael Dal Colle

Michael Dal Colle #28 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Michael Dal Colle #28 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

When the New York Islanders drafted Michael Dal Colle No.5 overall back in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, General Manager Garth Snow and company thought they were taking a guy that would be an offensive force as he matured at the NHL level.

I remember that day. Following Michael Dal Colle being drafted, a video was displayed about the kind of person he was. He spoke about looking up to his brother, JonLuca, who has autism and that he made him a stronger person.

Watching his interview and the video made me proud that this organization drafted such a fine human being, let alone a talented hockey player.

Six years later, however, and we are still waiting for Dal Colle to be an offensive weapon.

After playing three seasons in the minor leagues with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Ontario native did produce to a decent level, recording 22 goals and 42 assists for 64 points in 138 AHL games.

He showed signs of being someone who could produce at a higher rate:

In 2017-18, he would get a chance with the big club, dressing for four games, but failing to record a point. This seemed to be a wakeup call for him, as he put up 18 goals and 16 assists in 38 games with the Sound Tigers in 2018-19 before making his way back to the NHL, this time for good.

While his playing time since 2018 has gone up, he still has yet to find his game that would make him a staple in the lineup. We saw him take major strides this year at being a more physical player, using his size to win puck battles, as well as create a presence in front of the net. But, again, it has been a real struggle for him to stay in the lineup consistently given his production, or lack thereof.

When his OHL career came to an end back in 2016, he had accumulated 268 points (131 goals, 185 assists) in 213 games. He also held the captaincy in his last season with the Oshawa Generals, prior to being dealt to the Kingston Frontenics in January of 2016, his last season up north.

His numbers in the AHL were also very good but, for whatever reason, it just has not translated to the NHL level.

This past year with the Islanders, Dal Colle put up career highs in goals and assists, four and six respectively in a career-high 56 contests. In the postseason, head coach Barry Trotz used him in certain games, failing to record a point in the three in which he played.

Playing on the third line during the 2019-20 season, Dal Colle did not have to play like a First-Round draft choice. With talented playes beside him, he had to make sure he was responsible in his own zone, doing the little things. That being said, his lack of production, the lack of production from Derick Brassard, and the lack of production from the team on the offensive side of the puck, forced the hand of general manager Lou Lamoriello to acquire J-G Pageau from the Ottawa Senators at a hefty price. That made the third line a lot stronger, but still Dal Colle was not as effective as the team wished he was.

This upcoming season, it is now or never for 24-year old Dal Colle, at least with the Islanders.

With top prospects in Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows,  coupled with the fact that Joshua Ho-Sang is now back in the picture, Dal Colle will have a ton of pressure to play to a much higher level.

Quite frankly, if any of these players outplay Dal Colle at training camp, he may be on the back burner. The team loved using Ross Johnston at times, a big body who showed that he can play a Tom Wilson type of game consistently.

The Islanders have still not signed UFA’s Matt Martin and Derick Brassard, who could be back with the team leaving even less room for error. Not to mention Leo Komarov is still with the club as well as Andrew Ladd, both veteran players that may not be fan favorites, but would probably be more effective than Dal Colle.

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If the fourth-year NHLer is not going to be an offensive weapon, there is nothing wrong with that. He did not choose to be selected so high in his draft year, and the OHL is not the NHL. But the NHL is becoming a game based on speed and fitness and, with young guys waiting in the wings that have those traits, it leaves very little room for a guy like Michael Dal Colle, who does not boast either right now.