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Dal Colle To Play For Memorial Cup

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Michael Dal Colle lifts the J. Ross Robertson Cup - the OHL title.
After 56 regular season games, 21 playoff games and one OHL title, Michael Dal Colle is ready to compete for the top prize in Canadian junior hockey: the Mastercard Memorial Cup.

It may be the hardest trophy to win in hockey, as junior players have such a small window to compete for it. This year’s tournament – in Quebec City – may be Dal Colle’s only shot at the ultimate junior prize.

“It’s what every junior player dreams of and definitely since day one when I came to Oshawa, I’ve dreamed of playing in that tournament,” Dal Colle said. “Just being able to experience that, it’s going to be amazing and a dream-come-true.”

The road to the Memorial Cup was arduous. Dal Colle played a four-round playoff and now has to face off against two other league champions, the WHL's Kelowna Rockets and the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic, as well as the host Quebec Remparts, who finished second in the Quebec league.

There’s no easing into this tournament either, given the format. The Generals need to win one of three round-robin games to qualify for the elimination round and then it’s one-and-done.

“You’re playing against league champions now,” Generals Head Coach DJ Smith said. “One bad day and you’re not going to win. Our team will be ready to play when this thing starts.”

Dal Colle finished second in OHL playoff scoring with 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 21 games. The Generals leaned on their leading scorer all season and need him to be a dynamic presence in the final few big games.

"Michael’s been our point producer, goal scorer, play maker for three years now,” Smith said. “He’s going to have to do that. He’ll play against the other team’s elite, but at the same time, he’s elite.”

Smith said Dal Colle’s training camp experience with the Islanders helped him progress this season. Dal Colle said his progress was as much defensive, as it was offensive and his coach agreed.

“He’s working harder away from the puck,” Smith said. “He’s blocking more shots, doing the little things you have to do to be a pro. He has a lot of offensive upside that a lot of guys don’t have. If he can combine the defensive side with that, he’s a can’t-miss NHL player.”

Dal Colle said the Generals were considered underdogs this season all the way through their five-game win over Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters. Standing atop the OHL as league champs, no one will underestimate them in Quebec, but they’re still galvanizing themselves by sticking with an underdog mentality.

“Heading into the Quebec, I’d say Kelowna is probably the favorite,” Dal Colle said. “They have Leon Draisaitl and some World Junior players, but we’re fine with playing the role of underdogs. We’ve done it all year.”

Dal Colle was a highly-touted prospect after an impressive sophomore season that earned him the fifth-overall pick by the Islanders, but he topped those outputs in his third year. Dal Colle set a career-high with 42 goals this season, scoring 93 points in 56 games.

“For me personally it was a really good season,” Dal Colle said. “Offensively I put up good numbers and I continued to develop the defensive side of the game. Just being on a winning team was unbelievable.”

The biggest win could still be yet to come.

The Competition:

The Memorial Cup features the top teams in the junior circuit, as well as some of the top NHL prospects. The teams play a round-robin format to determine seeding for the elimination rounds. The top seed after the round-robin receives an automatic berth in the championship, while the second seed gets an automatic berth in the semi-final round. The third and fourth seed play for a spot in the semi-final round. Here is a breakdown of the competition vying for the Memorial Cup.

Kelowna Rockets: WHL Champions; Regular Season: 53-13-5-1; 112 pts.

Road to the Cup:
The Kelowna Rockets blew through the Western Hockey League playoffs, going 16-3 and averaging 4.2 goals per game en route to the Ed Chynoweth Cup. The Rockets swept the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL Final and scored three-or-more goals in 17 of their 19 playoff games.

Player to Watch: Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl bounced between the WHL and the NHL this season, but showed the dominance that made him the third-overall pick in June’s draft, scoring 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists) in 32 games. The Oilers draft pick led the Rockets – and the WHL – in playoff scoring with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 19 games. Draisaitl had never advanced past the first round in two seasons as a Prince Albert Raider, but won a title in his first season with the Rockets.

Memorial Cup History:
The Rockets are playing in their fifth Memorial Cup, their first since the 2009 tournament. Kelowna made three straight appearances from 2003-05, winning in 2004 as the host team. The Rockets have met the Rimouski Oceanic twice in the Memorial Cup – in 2005 and 2009.

Rimouski Oceanic: QMJHL Champions; Regular Season: 47-16-3-2; 99 pts.

Road to the Cup:
Rimouski represents the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the Memorial Cup, after defeating the Quebec Remparts 2-1 in double overtime of Game Seven in the Final. The Oceanic went 12-1 before a seven-game battle with the Remparts and finished the season with the most wins (47) and points (99) in the QMJHL.

Player to Watch: Alexis Loiseau
Alexis Loiseau led the Oceanic in points in both the regular season and playoffs. Loiseau notched nine goals and 17 assists in 20 playoff games, as well as 96 points (35 goals, 61 assists) in 68 regular season contests. Goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon is also a player to watch, with an 11-0-1 record, a 1.84 GAA, .926 SV% and three shutouts this postseason.

Memorial Cup History:
Rimouski is making its fourth Memorial Cup appearance (2000, 2005, 2009), having won the Cup in 2000. The Oceanic have met the Kelowna Rockets twice in the Memorial Cup – in 2005 and 2009.

Quebec Remparts: Lost in QMHL Final; Regular Season: 40-25-1-2; 83 pts.

Road to the Cup:
The Quebec Remparts automatically qualified for the Memorial Cup as the host team, but are still deserving of being in the dance. Quebec lost to Rimouski in double overtime of Game Seven in the QMJHL Final. The Remparts went seven games in the first and final rounds of the QMJHL playoffs, but swept their second and third round opponents. 

Player to Watch: Adam Erne
The Remparts boast three of the top five scorers in the QMJHL playoffs (Adam Erne, Anthony Duclair and Kurt Etchegary), but Erne ran away in the goal column, potting 21 in 22 games. Erne led Quebec with 30 points in the postseason and had 86 points (41 goals, 45 assists) in 60 regular season games.

Memorial Cup History:
The Remparts are two-time Memorial Cup champions (1971, 2006) and are making their seventh appearance in the tournament. This is Quebec’s third appearance since 1976 (2003, 2006, 2015) after four appearances in six years in the early 1970s.

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