This past summer, the New York Islanders elected to move on from their former 5th overall pick in 2014, Michael Dal Colle. Once a promising prospect, Dal Colle failed to prove himself at the NHL level in 112 league games throughout a five-year period.
Following the 2020-21 season, in which Michael Dal Colle notched a goal and three assists in 26 NHL games as a member of the COVID-19 practice squad, the Islanders elected not to re-sign their RFA. Instead, they let him become a free agent before bringing him back on a one-year deal at league minimum ($750,000).
After a nine-goal, 13-assist 2021-22 season with Bridgeport, the Islanders decided to move on.
Dal Colle did have a professional tryout with the Ottawa Senators but did not make their team out of camp. He is now playing for TPS Turku in the Finnish Elite League, with one goal and nine assists in 10 games.
Dal Colle Reflects on Time with Islanders
As mentioned, Michael Dal Colle did get his chance at the NHL level. When it was clear that providing offense consistency was going to be an issue, the Ontario native had to change his game, becoming more of a physical, grinding forward in a bottom-six role.
That kind of play earned him opportunities, but it wasn’t enough to keep him on the island or in the NHL.
“It took me a while to be a regular up top, and I learned a lot in those six years in the organization,” Dal Colle told Honkamaa. “My first two years in pro were just okay, and I made a big jump in my third year when I was 22 to be able to get that opportunity.”
In that third year, Dal Colle recorded career high’s across the board with four goals and six assists for 10 points.
Dal Colle also shared how challenging it was to play pro at the age of 20.
“Starting at the age of 20, you grow as a person. Living on your own, and it’s so different from juniors, where you live with billets, Dal Colle said. “Once you turn pro, you’re living on your own, doing everything on your own away from the rink.”
Dal Colle’s Decision to Head Overseas
Michael Dal Colle seemed to have a chance to start over with the Ottawa Senators, a young team on the rise.
But, as mentioned, the professional tryout did not go as planned, and Dal Colle decided that playing in Europe was the best option for him.
“When I got released, I was looking where to go, and this opportunity (with TPS) arose,” Dal Colle said. “I heard from a lot of guys that it’s a younger developmental league, and there are a lot of good prospects in this league, and it’s fast. It’s a good league, and I’m happy I’m here.”
Dal Colle did not have much knowledge of the team, knowledge of the Finnish Elite League as he never thought of any hockey other than NHL hockey.
“I didn’t know much, to be honest. I didn’t know much about any teams, any leagues in Europe because I never really thought about it. I know there’s good hockey over here in all of the different countries. But I never thought about it at all when I was playing in North America,” Dal Colle said.
Dal Colle Using TPS Time to Find Offensive Game
At 26, Michael Dal Colle does not have the NHL in his rear-view mirror. If anything, it’s still in his sights, and he’s doing everything he can to grow his game with TPS.
He still believes he can be an offensive player at the NHL level.
“My game’s changed a lot since I was in juniors. Back then, I was a very offensive goal scorer who was creating plays. Once I turned pro at 20, the game kind of switched as I had to come up with a bit of a niche to my game and a little bit more responsible two-way guy,” Dal Colle said. “Eventually, when I got to the NHL level, I was doing more of a defensive role. I’ve played different roles my whole career.”
“Here in TPS, it’s about trying to produce and score offensively and create offense.”
Although the goals have not been there through 15 games, he does have 10 points and is on a four-game point streak.
It’s a different game over in Europe, and Dal Colle is doing what he can to adapt on the fly.
“The ice surface is huge, literally and figuratively,” Dal Colle said. “I’ve never played in rinks this big. I think that kind of leads into the style of play. It’s more like chess. Very defensive, very trap-oriented, which is a bit of an adjustment for me because my last two years as a pro were more about “always go, always go,” and here you got to think about tactics and stuff like that a little bit more.”
“It’s probably been the biggest adjustment for me.”
Dal Colle on Getting Back to the NHL
There’s no question Michael Dal Colle rather be playing in the NHL, and the reality that he isn’t has him wondering why.
“It’s not ideal for me. Once you get a taste of it, you always want to be there,” Dal Colle said. “But I’m proud of myself because I worked really hard to get to that level.”
One of the prominent issues for Dal Colle at the NHL level was the lack of confidence in his game. You could see him get chances, but continuing to fall short saw him trust his shot less and less until he became a physical forward, a depth forward, with no offensive upside.
He’s working on building confidence with TPS.
“I need to work on my confidence with the puck and bring out my skill level, work hard and [show off my] work ethic,” Dal Colle said. “Just mainly [focusing on] puck skills and gaining confidence, gaining momentum on the power play and stuff like that, being a little more offensive and growing that aspect in my game.”
“I know that I have that in my toolbox.”
While a return to the NHL following the 2022-23 season is his goal, he’s looking to make the most of the chances he’s given in the sport of hockey.
“Obviously, everyone’s goal is to play in the NHL, and I reached that goal, and it took me over here at 26,” Dal Colle said. “If I can get back there one day, that would be ideal, but if not, then grow and learn the European game.”
“There’s no looking back for me at this point. I am where I am in my career, and I’m looking to make the most of the opportunities given to me.”