Michael Dal Colle made his professional debut Friday night, skating in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers playoff-clinching win over the Portland Pirates.
Dal Colle, the Islanders’ 2014 first-round pick (5th overall), was assigned to the Sound Tigers earlier that day after concluding his junior hockey career on Wednesday. It’s a transition Islanders fans have been eagerly been waiting for, but not as much as Dal Colle, who’s been working towards turning pro and being one step closer to the NHL.
“There were some nerves before the game, I can’t lie,” Dal Colle says. “It was also my first pro game but that’s a huge win for this team and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
It’s a big jump going from playing against 16-20 year olds to facing off against full-grown men, so this experience is key for Dal Colle, who will be playing professionally at some level next season.
“It’s obviously a big difference,” Dal Colle said after the game. “Guys are so much bigger up here and there’s less time and space because guys are always on you, but I think that was a good first game for me. I think we had some chemistry with our line. We had some good chances.”
Dal Colle played on the Sound Tigers top line on Friday, skating with Bracken Kearns and James Wright, both of whom scored in the 3-2 win. Although Dal Colle didn’t come away with a point himself, the veterans were plenty impressed with his debut.
“I thought he was really good,” Kearns said. “He had a lot of jump in his game. He’s a nice player. He had a lot of scoring chances tonight. He could’ve had a couple goals.”
The 19-year-old finished the game with two shots, but was around the net and had several high quality scoring chances that nearly broke the early deadlock.
“I was very, very happy with him,” Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson said. “I thought his play away from the puck was excellent, he was moving his feet so his pace was good. He had a couple scoring opportunities – a great grade-A scoring chance on the power play. Just his presence out there, you can see his puck poise, his vision, I’m looking forward to see how he evolves.”
The last time the Sound Tigers had made the playoffs Dal Colle was a member of the St. Michael’s Buzzers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. That was four years ago when Dal Colle was just 15 and still two years away from being drafted. Now, he’s playing a big role for the team down the stretch, getting power play and first-line minutes for a team that will try to make it to the second round for the first time since 2003.
“He’s played in a lot of high pressure games,” Thompson said. “He’s played for Team Canada [at the Ivan Hlinka tournament], he’s won a Memorial Cup – he’s a high profile player. He’s been on the big stage, he’s played in pressure games before. With players like that, once they get on the ice, they go about their business.”
“He looked good tonight,” Thompson added. “I thought it was just another step in his development and a great start to his pro career.”