2014 Draft Eligibles: Oshawa’s Dal Colle worthy of a top five selection come June

Image courtesy of ca.sports.yahoo.com

Back in September, before the OHL season began, I did a quick preview of the top ten OHL players who are NHL draft eligible this season. (You can view my rankings here.) Oshawa Generals center Michael Dal Colle ranked number two on my initial list behind Barrie Colts defender Aaron Ekblad. I still feel Ekblad is the best overall OHL prospect for the draft and will probably be a top 2 pick come June.

However, my opinion on Dal Colle has changed.

I thought he would be a mid-first round selection, but after an incredible start to the year, Dal Colle has jumped into my top five overall prospects for the draft. Coming off an impressive 48 point rookie campaign, expectations were high for the Vaughan, ON native this season. Obviously, junior hockey players wants to perform at their highest during their draft year. With that being said, their is enormous pressure not only on the player himself but his family, team, and coaches feel the pressure too. Some players rise to the occasion and perform well. Others crumble and are never heard from again.

So far Dal Colle seems unfazed through 21 games.

He leads the Generals in scoring with 14 goals, 23 assists for 37 points. His 37 points are good for second in the entire OHL and his 14 goals are tied for the team lead with Flyers prospect Scott Laughton. Dal Colle will be a welcomed addition to any NHL team’s prospect system. He’s a rangy forward who has an uncanny ability to put the puck in the net. He primarily plays center, but can switch to left wing if need be.  I dare say he has a Steven Stamkos like shot, but the two are eerily similar.

While he’s known as an offensive minded player, I don’t think he gets enough recognition in the defensive game. I originally compared him to a cross between Jason Spezza and John Tavares. After further review, I see him more of hybrid between Evgeni Malkin and Eric Staal. He possesses Malkin’s offensive instincts, but has the tenacity and two-way game of Staal. Dal Colle can create his own offensive and doesn’t forget about playing in his own end.

The only two knocks I have on Dal Colle is his speed and his lack of size. He needs to get quicker. His feet are sluggish and is acceleration is not great. Former Oshawa great John Tavares was criticized for having sluggish feet during his draft year and he turned out pretty darn well. I’m not that worried about his size though. He’s 6’2, 171 pounds, but with 20-30 pounds of muscle he’ll be a force. Plus, he’s still growing at only 17 years old. I would not be shocked if he tops out around 6’4.

Dal Colle is currently rotating in and out with Scott Laughton, Cole Cassels (VAN 85th overall, ’13), and Hunter Smith and has developed chemistry with all three of those players. He also sees time between Josh Sterk and Joe Manchurek. Dal Colle’s growth this season, along with Scott Laughton’s return from the Flyers, is a huge reason why the Generals have a .786 winning percentage and are one of the OHL’s top teams.

The Gens are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have a 10 point lead on second place Kingston in the East Division. With London hosting the Memorial Cup this year, the OHL has an extra birth for the tournament come May. The Generals along with Erie and Guelph are the early favorites to win the OHL title.

I know it’s still very early in the season and Dal Colle still has plenty of work to do, but it’s not out of question that he could go top five. He’s a slick-play maker who is patient with the puck and seems makes everyone around him better. Just asked Tyler Biggs (Toronto Marlies AHL) and Boone Jenner (Columbus Blue Jackets) last season.

It’s hard to identify great talent, but seeing Dal Colle play I say to myself “he’s got something special about him and he’s got what it takes to be an NHL player.”  Going forward, Dal Colle could be the next great Canadian power forward along the lines of Cam Neely, Eric Lindros, Jarome Iginla,  and Joe Thornton.

Only time will tell I guess.