It’s been a long time coming, but Michael Dal Colle is finally off the mark at the start of his NHL career.
The 22-year-old winger recorded his first-career NHL goal in the first period of Thursday night’s 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils in his 13th career NHL game.
“I don’t know, I can’t really describe it,” Dal Colle said. “I envisioned it for so long, ever since I started playing.”
Drafted fifth overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, Dal Colle has only played minimally over the last two years as he’s had difficulties breaking into the NHL side.
While he looked poised to break into the team last year, he only appeared in four games as he continued to toil in the AHL.
“Ever since I’ve been drafted, it’s been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride,” Dal Colle said. “Last year was a bit of a down year but I had a big offseason, got off to a good start down [in the AHL] this season and it’s carried on.”
Under Barry Trotz, however, Dal Colle is getting more of an extended look as he’s been placed on the Islanders’ third line alongside veterans Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula.
Both established forwards, while not the flashiest, are known for their ability to nurture younger players. They were first tasked in working with Josh Ho-Sang, who looked far more composed in his latest stint in the NHL before being sent down earlier this month.
Now the move is paying off for Dal Colle.
“He’s been playing with Filppula and Leo and he just has more confidence,” Trotz said. “Just being around those guys: Filppula is an intelligent player, Leo has got that little bit of a bite and Michael has just fit in really well.”
“He’s growing as a player, from training camp til now. You can’t give a player confidence, you can’t just reach in your pocket and give him that… and he’s earned it. I’m real happy for him.”
The winger displayed some nifty hand-eye coordination to double the Islanders’ lead in the first period after captain Anders Lee’s opener. As Dal Colle drifted toward Devils goalie McKenzie Blackwood’s right post, he was able to get a backhanded deflection on a shot from the point by defenseman Scott Mayfield.
As Blackwood was moving in the opposite direction, Dal Colle’s redirection was into a wide-open net.
Jordan Eberle would add a power-play goal to make it a trifecta for the Islanders in the first period, which was more than enough to fuel them to an easy victory.
Lee would add a second to increase his season total to 18, but he was beaming for Dal Colle following the game.
“It’s awesome, I’m so happy for him,” Lee said. “All the hard work that he’s put in to get to this moment. It’s an awesome time and we’re all so proud of him.”
And while the Islanders celebrated a 13th win in 16 nights, the moment offered Dal Colle a moment for some self-reflection.
“All the work I put in, all the sacrifices my family has made for me to play this game… this is a special day for my family,” Dal Colle said. “My dad’s going to get [the puck], he’s probably got a special place for that.”