Trying to sit still in the seats at Wells Fargo Center four picks into the 2014 NHL Draft, Michael Dal Colle had a feeling he was moments away from becoming a New York Islander.
As the Islanders management took the stage, Dal Colle turned to his father, Gus, and quietly disclosed his gut feeling, adding that he wanted to wind up on Long Island with fellow Oshawa Generals alumni John Tavares and Calvin de Haan.
“I kind of had a gut feeling I would go here if I were available and it worked out great,” Dal Colle said shortly after his prediction came to fruition. Fitted in a new, Islanders-blue uniform with his name freshly minted on the back, he added, “It’s amazing, a dream come true. They are a very young team, up and coming. I’ll add to a good young, core group of guys.”
Most fans and pundits agreed that the standout winger, who was the Ontario Hockey League’s fifth-leading scorer,
would be snatched up – if available – by the Islanders. Dal Colle scored 95 points (39 goals, 56 assists) in 67 games with the Generals and added 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 12 playoff games, the highest total of any player who didn’t qualify for the finals.
“Drafting a player of Michael’s caliber is another building block in what is an important offseason for the organization,” Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said. “We’re excited to see him develop into another key piece of our core. Michael has top-end offensive skill, paired with two-way instincts and hockey sense, which are assets we are thrilled to add to the Islanders.”
My whole family is what drives me every day. I am definitely a family-oriented guy everything I do in hockey is for them. - Michael Dal Colle
Dal Colle was slotted as the fifth-highest North American skater by central scouting and was the top-rated winger in the draft. The Islanders prospect pool is deep with defensemen (Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, Ville Pokka) and centers (Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson), but the team had not drafted a winger since John Persson in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.
“The one weakness, prospect-wise, positionally that we needed to address was on the wing,” Snow said. He later traded for another first-round pick and selected winger Josh Ho-Sang with the 28th overall pick.
Dal Colle played center throughout minor hockey in Ontario before switching to the wing with the Generals. His father said that his son thinks like a center, which is what makes him an effective two-way player on the wing.
“He’s a very intelligent player,” The senior Dal Colle said. “He sees the ice exceptionally well. He’s got great playmaking skills and can finish. I think he’ll be a very good compliment going forward with the Islanders.”
While Dal Colle is a standout player on the ice, he’s also a standup person off of it. He’s a family-oriented guy, whose maturity and perspective are shaped by an autistic brother and a brave mother who battled and beat breast cancer. He cites them as his biggest role model and his biggest hero.
“My whole family is what drives me every day,” Dal Colle said. “I am definitely a family-oriented guy. Everything I do in hockey is for them.”
Snow and Head Coach Jack Capuano constantly covet “high-character guys” and have found one in Dal Colle.
“Michael is a wonderful kid,” his father said. “He’s never given us any problems, he’s very respectful, he takes a lot of responsibility, he’s faced a lot of adversity and he has a lot of character. I think he’ll make the Islanders proud.”
Michael was joined by 35 friends and family and had one of the largest receptions at the draft. He looked calm, poised and collected during his first NHL media scrum, but said he was overwhelmed with emotion when he heard his name called on the draft floor.
Even with astute intuition, it’s hard to prepare for a life-changing moment like being drafted to the NHL.