Michael Dal Colle never materialized into the star player that was expected to come from being a fifth overall pick. That has followed Dal Colle during his entire time with the New York Islanders and, despite finding some success in the bottom six of the lineup, why his role this season is up in the air.
With training camp just getting underway, no decision has been made about what Dal Colle’s role with the team will be. The 25-year-old was a restricted free agent this offseason and the Islanders opted not to send him a qualifying offer.
Never the less he returned to the team after the two sides came to an agreement on a contract.
“I love being here on the Island,” Dal Colle said after the third day of training camp Saturday. “It’s a great organization from top to bottom and I’m honored to be back. Camp has been camp for me and I’m looking forward to preseason here to show what I can do, and just working on my game.”
Over the course of his NHL career, Dal Colle’s offense never materialized and in 23 games last season he scored just once. He had scored a combined eight goals in three seasons, which forced him to alter his game to get back into the lineup.
Michael Dal Colle has transitioned into a grinder, crashing the net hard and using his body to keep pucks deep. Even though he found success doing that, Dal Colle is on a team that has plenty of players that can fill that role.
That means production becomes that more important for him to get a chance to play in the Islanders lineup.
Dal Colle was playing his best hockey early last season, but a nagging injury forced him to miss time. His spot was eventually handed over to the team’s rising stars. Rookie Oliver Wahlstrom emerged and forced the coaching staff make him a fixture in the lineup on a nightly basis.
Once Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac were acquired days before the NHL Trade Deadline, Dal Colle’s chances to play, even if he was healthy, were evaportating.
With the majority of last year’s back, and additions being made, the Islanders are even deeper which hurts Dal Colle’s chances even more.
“I think it’s quite open,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said when asked about the competition to be the team’s 13th forward. “I think there’s a really good group. I don’t think I can make too many mistakes. What I like about the group the past few years, there was that group, say 13 through 15, there was maybe one open spot cause there was seperation. There’s not as much seperation as there used to be. It’s really good because there’s a lot more depth there.
“We’re just going to let it play out a little bit.”
The starting 12 forwards for the Islanders are set, with newly acquired Zach Parise filling the third line winger role alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and likely Wahlstrom. Veteran forward Richard Panik, who was acquired in the Nick Leddy trade, may be the first man up with Leo Komarov not too far behind. Bellows, who has more offensive upside than the veterans just mentioned, should get chances as well.
So why bring Dal Colle back if you are the Islanders?
As we have seen over the last two seasons, injuries are more than likely to occur, and the Islanders will need the depth up front. Having too much forward depth is a good problem for any organization, especially depth with NHL experience.
And who knows, a year in the minors may be beneficial for Dal Colle. Although becoming an elite offensive player is in the rearview mirror, he can make himself a more appealing option.
It seems that Dal Colle’s biggest obstacle is his confidence, which has affected his decision-making and finishing ability.
That offensive confidence is what got him drafted high in the first place. Playing for the OHL Oshawa Generals, Michael Dal Colle often found open space and did not hesitate to let the puck go off his stick. In his season with Bridgeport, being selected as an All-Star in his final season before being called up, after he collected 34 points in 34 games.
But as he came to realize, the thought process needed to be exponentially faster at the NHL level. He just failed to make that adjustment and found himself in a tough spot.
Being sent down after a few years at the NHL level, which has not been decided, mind you, will undoubtedly be a tough pill to swallow. A player can either put his head down or use it as motivation to improve.
It is up to Dal Colle as to which road he takes, but from what we have seen at the NHL level, he is a very hard worker and will need to showcase growth in whatever role he is put in this season if he wants his NHL career to continue.
NYI Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief Christian Arnold contributed to this report
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