New York Islanders prospect Michael Dal Colle
has faced adversity before in his life. His brother, Jonluca, has autism. His mother, Wendy, is a breast cancer survivor.
But Dal Colle never really faced adversity on the ice until last season. After a strong training camp with the Islanders last fall, Dal Colle struggled with Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League, where he had eight goals in 30 games. For the second straight year, he was cut from Canada's roster for the IIHF World Junior Championship.
It wasn't until a trade to Kingston on Jan. 1 when things really took off. Dal Colle, the Islanders' first-round pick (No. 5) in the 2014 NHL Draft, had 27 goals and 28 assists in 30 regular-season games, and six goals and 12 assists in nine playoff games.
"Coming off the Memorial Cup year in Oshawa (in 2015), it was a rebuilding year there," Dal Colle said. "The trade worked out for both sides. I loved playing in Oshawa; it will always be a second home to me. But Kingston was a great fit at the end and I ended on a strong note.
"It was good for me, even though we lost in Kingston. We wanted to make a run. Personally, I got some pro experience, (which) I think was big for my development. It was definitely good."
After Kingston was eliminated from the playoffs, Dal Colle got his first taste of life as a professional. He was held without a point in three regular-season games and had one assist in three AHL playoff games for Bridgeport. Playing across the Long Island Sound was a great opportunity for Islanders brass to get a closer look at Dal Colle, who turned 20 on June 20.
"We've spent time with Michael over the years, but that was our first real opportunity to be day in and day out, hands-on, and we liked a lot of the things that we saw there from him both on and off the ice, which is an important part of the process too," Islanders director of player development Eric Cairns said. "There's different types of adversity, and Michael did a great job of handling that adversity, and then coming out on the positive end of it with Kingston and then with Bridgeport at the end of the year.
"He's in a good place right now. That's all you look for as a development crew, for guys to learn their lessons and get better. He certainly did that last year."
Dal Colle will need to have another strong training camp for the Islanders if he hopes to play in the NHL this season. New York signed left wings Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera as unrestricted free agents on July 1 after already having Anders Lee in the fold. If he doesn't make the NHL roster, he'll go to Bridgeport for more seasoning.
"This is the biggest offseason for me to date," Dal Colle said. "Obviously it's still early, but for me this offseason in the weight room and on the ice is bigger than ever before.
"I think my game is evolving. I know I've got to be better defensively, I've got to put on some weight and get stronger if I want to play and make an impact at that level, and my skating. Those are a few things I'm definitely working on. Hopefully I make the roster come September."