Islanders top pick Michael Dal Colle eyes big role with Team Canada

Michael Dal Colle (#19), of Team Canada during Canada's National Junior Team summer development camp, Sherbrooke, Que., Aug. 6, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Ghyslain Bergeron
Michael Dal Colle (#19), of Team Canada during Canada's National Junior Team summer development camp, Sherbrooke, Que., Aug. 6, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Ghyslain Bergeron

Michael Dal Colle is secure enough to acknowledge a boyhood dream; now he's just aiming to realize it with Team Canada.

None of the other 29 players at the selection camp under coach coach Benoît Groulx plays his OHL games closer to Air Canada Centre, the site of the world junior championship medal round, than the 18-year-old Dal Colle does with the Oshawa Generals. The New York Islanders first-round pick is hopeful he can take the expanded role he has with the Ontario Hockey League-leading Gens and become a mainstay for the red and white.

"I can't lie to you, it's come across my mind a few times," Dal Colle said following Thursday's first team practice at MasterCard Centre, where the Leafs practise. "Being a Leafs fan [before being drafted No. 5 overall by the Islanders in the 2014 NHL draft] and growing up going to the ACC to watch them play and that's where the medal round is going to be. It's going to be in the back of your mind, growing up here, in your hometown. If I'm fortunate enough to make it, that's going to be quite the atmosphere. I'm really excited."


Dal Colle set himself apart as an elite scorer in the OHL essentially from the moment he joined Oshawa in 2012. Since returning from his first NHL camp with the Islanders, the Vaughan, Ont., native has averaged two points per game with Oshawa. What's more pertinent, especially at a time when Groulx is stressing it's not enough to simply be a 100-point scorer in major junior, is whether he can elevate his game. Dal Colle is quietly confident that having an expanded role as one of Oshawa's leaders, alongside two-year captain Josh Brown, can translate to the national team.

"I learned so much from guys there in my first and second year — Scott Laughton, Boone Jenner, Tyler Biggs," Dal Colle said, rhyming off three teammates who each played in the WJC during their time with the Gens. "Learning from those guys as a 16-year-old really helped me develop as a player and a person, on and off the ice. Now that I'm in my third year I'm looking to be more of a role model for the other guys. Anthony Cirelli, he's my centreman right now, I've been trying to teach him some things.

"It's been awesome this year in Oshawa," added Dal Colle, who has 46 points in 23 OHL games. "We have a great team there and as you can see we're off to a really good start. [Oshawa coach] D.J. Smith is running a pretty tight ship. Our team is really buying in."

The talker from the practice was a drill where Groulx and the coaching staff split players into two groups to practice blocking shots, illustrating a coaching point about doing the little things to win. (Connor McDavid, where the gold no-contact uniform, only had to block one shot from assistant coach Scott Walker before being excused.) Dal Colle was eager to jump in.

"I've been doing that personally since I was eight, usually with orange balls," he said. "The foam pucks, that was a first for me.

"Whatever it takes," Dal Colle added. "I just want a gold medal at the end of it if I am fortunate enough to make the team."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.