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Islanders Draft Party A Success

by Jacob Betzner / New York Islanders
Fans watch the draft at the Islanders Draft Party

The crowd at Nassau Coliseum erupted in cheers as General Manager Garth Snow selected Michael Dal Colle with the fifth-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. While the thousands of diehard Islanders fans were separated by two states and 130 miles, they watched the draft unfold live, via live stream, at the team’s annual Draft Party.

Dal Colle could not see the Coliseum’s reaction to his pick, but the 18-year-old was embraced by the Islanders faithful.

Dal Colle turned 18 years old a week before the draft. The winger showed elite skill with the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals, finishing last season with 39 goals and 95 points in 67 games. The budding power forward added eight goals and 20 points in 12 playoff games last season. Islanders fan Ryan Dennison hopes Dal Colle brings a scoring touch to the Islanders lineup soon.

"I think it was a pick we really needed," Dennison said. "He's a good player, but he's going to have to prove himself, and I think he'll get a few games to do that."

Dal Colle becomes the second Islanders first-round draft pick out of Oshawa in the past five seasons. The Islanders drafted defenseman Calvin de Haan out of Oshawa in the first round in 2009. Additionally, captain John Tavares played parts of four seasons with Oshawa before finishing a stellar junior career with the London Knights and becoming the first-overall pick in the 2009 draft. At the 2014 Draft Party, Vincent Skelden noted the relationship between the Generals and the Islanders.

"We have a history with Oshawa, and we'll see how it works out," Skelden said. "He seems like a tough kid, but you never know. With draft picks, you never know."

While the crowd at the Coliseum dwindled, the Islanders kept the party going in Philadelphia by sending the 35th and 57th picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 28th pick. With a second pick in the first round, the Islanders took forward Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires, also of the OHL. A crafty player, Ho-Sang scored 32 goals and finished with 85 points in 67 games with Windsor last season.

The draft party attracted Islanders fans from all over New York State. Mike Cassidy, who drove from Albany specifically for the draft party knew what type of player he wanted to see slip on and Islanders sweater on the stage in Philadelphia.

Matt Martin sits in the dunk tank at the Islanders Draft Party.

While the Islanders ultimately took two forwards in the first round, Cassidy still enjoyed touring the Islanders locker room and watching the draft with fellow Islanders fans. Fans came for the camaraderie, but also for the family-friendly atmosphere. Brothers Charlie and Chris Mauceri, attending the event for a third consecutive year, brought more family to the 2014 Draft Party. Cousins James and Anthony Mauceri, sons of Chris and Charlie, enjoyed sliding down the inflatable Islanders slide, jumping around in the Islanders moon bounce and riding the Ferris wheel. Fans also enjoyed viewing exhibits of Islanders gear presented by the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Several Islanders players made appearances throughout the night, including de Haan, Eric Boutlon, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Matt Martin. At one point in the night, Martin sat in the dunk booth. April Carey watched as fans tried to hit the bullseye and send Martin into the water. With all the fanfare going on and the excitement of the Islanders making the fifth overall selection, the players interacting with the fans truly made the event memorable.

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