As a top-ranked prospect, the Oshawa Generals’ Michael Dal Colle has had plenty of exposure to the pressures of the NHL Draft, and he’s hoping to parlay that experience into a successful campaign in his draft-eligible year.
“My two linemates last year were Tyler Biggs and Boone Jenner and they were both pretty high draft picks in the NHL,” Dal Colle said. “I just tried to emulate them all year last year, not just on the ice but off — they carried themselves so well and they’re just great people, too.
“I just tried to learn from them and I think they really helped me out for this year and were great role models.”
The lessons seem to be working. Not only is Dal Colle leading the Generals in scoring with 19 points in 12 games, but he’s also found himself squarely in the scouts’ projections for the 2014 NHL Draft. Craig Button has him ranked eighth in his list. NHL Central Scouting rated him as an A-level skater in its list of ones to watch and several mock drafts have him as a mid-first round selection.
But Dal Colle said he’s not allowing that to get to — or into — his head.
“I try not to pay attention to that too much. Rankings, I try not to let it affect my game. I just want to go out there every night and stick to my game,” he said. “I don’t want to go out and start doing something differently, just because someone has me rated highly. I try to just put it in the back of my mind and just keep my attention on the game.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned with some of those guys and it’s obviously a big year for me, so I just want to keep up the start that I’ve gotten off to.”
He also knows that it’s still very early in the process and things can change dramatically if he doesn’t produce.
“Obviously Craig Button, Bob McKenzie, and all of those guys — to be on their list is just a huge honor,” he said. “But at the same time it’s still very, very early in the season and there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Where you are in October and where you are in June are two totally different things, so I’m just trying to carry myself the right way.”
As a rookie last season, Dal Colle scored an impressive 15 goals and added 33 assists in 63 games. He should shatter those totals this year. The Vaughan, ON native is quick to credit his teammates for his success.
“I think right from the start — even in my first year — I was playing on the first line,” he said. “I’m just trying to maintain that level of success from last year to this year and I think it’s definitely helping my [draft stock]. I’ve had some chemistry early with my linemates.
“[Scott] Laughton, [Hunter] Smith, [Cole] Cassels — I’m rotating in and out with those guys and have been able to develop chemistry with them all. Honestly, I think our whole team has gotten off to a better start than many people had anticipated.”
While scoring hasn’t proved to be an issue to date, Dal Colle is looking to show that he’s developed a well-rounded game.
“I’m an offensive-minded player, but I take pride in my defensive play,” he said. “Obviously there’s no offense without defense. I think I’ve been able to get off to a strong start offensively and I’ve been able to develop great chemistry with the guys. I consider myself a two-way player.
“To be honest I have to get quicker — you always, always have to get faster. And obviously I want to put on some muscle and increase the physical part of my game — scouts want to see that.”
You can see in the players he idolizes and emulates that he’s looking to be amongst the NHL’s two-way elites one day.
“My favorite player is [Evgeni] Malkin,” Dal Colle said. “I think I play more of an Eric Staal type of game, but I really like Malkin and the way he plays. He’s a good two-way player, but he’s good offensively.
“All of those guys like Staal, [Rick] Nash have the ability to create offensively, but also focus on defense.”
Growing up as a Leafs’ fan (“and they’re doing well now!” he said), Dal Colle admitted that being drafted by Toronto would be a dream come true. But no matter who calls his name on Draft Day, he’s going to consider it an honor.
“I’m going to be happy wherever I go, but if the Leafs happened to pick me it would be just a huge honor,” he said. “Growing up and watching guys like Mats Sundin — thinking about pulling on that jersey would be special. But no matter who drafts me I know it’s going to be a special day.”
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