One of the biggest reasons why the draft will always be an inexact science is based on the fact that each player develops at his own pace. There is no way to tell just how quickly someone will become NHL ready, but there are certain expectations when drafted early.
For the New York Islanders, there was probably always the hope that Michael Dal Colle would be skating alongside John Tavares as a dynamic one-two punch. While that will never happen with Tavares, there is still hope all the patience taken with Dal Colle will finally pay off.
Prototypical power forward prospect
For the former fifth-overall pick, he got to bear the first bit of fruits from that time and patience, as he registered his first career goal on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.
Selected in 2004, Dal Colle has a long way to make up the ground that the rest of his top ten draft class has gained on him, but regardless of that, it was a great moment for the Islanders’ rookie.
Coming up through juniors, Dal Colle was a big, powerful scoring machine. After a midseason trade from the Oshawa Generals to the Kingston Frontenacs, Dal Colle responded with 27 goals across the final 30 contests. He registered 42 goals and 93 points in just 56 games in the year following getting drafted by the Islanders.
Overall, Dal Colle registered 316 points (131 G, 185 A) in just 246 games while playing in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
The Islanders took their time with their young power forward, as sometimes they need longer than others, needing to fill out so they can properly use their skill set against grown men.
The long, winding road to the NHL
Dal Colle has spent the better part of the last three years (this season included) fine tuning his craft in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. After mixed results early on, it looked as if he is turning the corner, scoring 16 goals in just 28 games.
Now getting his first bit of consistent playing time at the NHL level, Dal Colle redirected a shot from the point that beat MacKenzie Blackwood and gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.
Over the last ten games - eight of which Dal Colle played in - the rookie winger is third among Islanders’ forwards in own scoring chances created per 60 minutes (10.35 iSCF/60). He has done so with the fifth highest shot rate (6.9 iSF/60) among the forwards, also across the last ten games.
Dal Colle has a ways to go to catch up to the rest of the top of his draft class. Just inside the top ten, the likes of Aaron Ekblad, Leon Draisaitl, and William Nylander are all making big impacts for their teams - with the first two already signing long-term deals to remain with their clubs.
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The Islanders and Dal Colle won’t care what the rest of his draft class has done if he continues to make the progress he has and can contribute some more of these goals along the way.
What are the realistic expectations for Dal Colle going forward? Is he still a potential top-six forward like the Islanders drafted him to be? Let us know what you think in the comments below!