New York Islanders’ Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang, have both had slow-developing paths to the NHL. Dal Colle, a top-five pick in 2014, has faced issues when it comes to his skating and production in the years after his stint with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Oshawa Generals and Kingston Frontenacs. Ho-Sang, on the other hand, has had different kinds of issues. Supremely skilled, especially in the stickhandling department, he has been chastised by multiple regimes of Islanders management, from the time he overslept and missed training camp to his number controversy back in the 2016-17 season.
Both have shown promise of late, however, with Dal Colle getting 28 games in the NHL this past season and scoring three goals and seven points, while also going a point-per-game in the AHL when he was with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Ho-Sang, additionally, has had a few successful stints in the NHL during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, where he scored 10 points in 21 games and 12 points in 22 games, respectively. Both secured contracts for the 2019-20 season, with Dal Colle signing a two-year, one-way contract worth $700,000 per season and Ho-Sang a one-year deal that pays him $874,125 if he plays in the NHL and $70,000 if he is in the minor leagues.
Both young at 23 years old, they could each have fruitful NHL careers if they begin to progress during these contracts. Islanders fans are hopeful for one of them to break out this season, and there’s reason to believe they may. With that, here are five successful late bloomers that the Islanders have helped foster, giving hope that both Dal Colle and Ho-Sang can shine for the club sooner rather than later.
1. Anders Lee
When Lee was selected 151st overall in the 2009 Draft, the same as former franchise cornerstone John Tavares, to call him an afterthought would have been an understatement. Ten years later, he is one of the cornerstones of the franchise, scoring 20-40 goals a season and is the current captain of the Islanders.
After being drafted, he spent three seasons at the University of Notre Dame, eventually serving as captain as well. Though he did score his first goal in his first NHL game during the 2012-13 season, he was not a mainstay in the Islanders lineup until the 2014-15 season, when he broke out with 25 goals in 76 games. Safe to say he was worth the wait, as he constantly a dangerous force in the Islanders’ top six.
2. Devon Toews
Devon Toews, now 24, took a bit of a long road to the NHL. After being passed over twice in the NHL Draft, he was selected with the 108th overall pick in 2014, and he spent three years playing for Quinnipiac University. In 2016-17, he burst onto the AHL scene with the Sound Tigers with 45 points in 75 games and was selected to the AHL All-Star Classic, where he won the Fastest Skater competition, as well as the all-rookie team.
The next season, Toews suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in December after posting 22 points in 30 games, which continued his long road to the NHL. He began the 2018-19 season in the AHL, but after Thomas Hickey suffered a concussion in December in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, he took the open spot and ran with it, ending the season with 18 points in 48 games and becoming arguably the best defenceman on the team.
3. Matt Moulson
Moulson, most notably known as Tavares’ wingman in the early part of his career, wasn’t drafted until the 263rd-overall selection in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. This came after his freshman season at Cornell University, being passed on by every team in the 2002 Draft. He continued to play for the Big Red for another three seasons and found great success, scoring 115 points in 101 games.
Despite his college years, he didn’t reach the NHL full time until four years after he graduated, joining the Islanders during the 2009-10 season after signing a one-year, $575,000 contract. Put alongside rookie phenom Tavares, Moulson broke out, scoring 30 goals and 48 points that season. He hit the 30-goal mark the next two seasons, before eventually being traded in the 2013-14 season to the Buffalo Sabres in a package for Thomas Vanek. Ever the late bloomer, he was an integral part of the Islanders success during the early Tavares era.
4. Mark Streit
Streit was originally taken 262nd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2004 NHL Draft at the age of 27 after spending most of his hockey career in Switzerland playing for the ZSC Lions. Once drafted, he didn’t break out until the 2007-08 season with the Canadiens, scoring 13 goals and 62 points.
Coming off a breakout campaign, he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2008, and signed a five-year, $20.5 million contract with the Islanders. He posted 56, 49, and 47-point seasons, along with 27 points during the lockout-shortened season before signing with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013. He later won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins after a trade in 2017.
5. Billy Smith
Last, we have arguably the most important late bloomer that the Islanders have ever acquired. Billy Smith was originally drafted 59th overall in 1970 by the Los Angeles Kings, but was then selected with the Islanders’ second pick in the 1972 Expansion Draft. He didn’t blossom into stardom, and become known for his aggressive goaltending, until the 1978-79 season, when he made the All-Star Game was named MVP.
From then on out, the tandem of Smith and Chico Resch created one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL. Smith solidified his job, and his status as one of the NHL’s top goalies, in the 1980 Playoffs where he backstopped the Islanders to their first-ever Stanley Cup. He then rattled off three more Cup wins in the next three years and solidified himself as one of the best players the Islanders, and the NHL, has ever seen at the position.
While not all of the above players were developed by the Islanders, their development arcs should provide Islanders fans with hope that Dal Colle and Ho-Sang can reach their potentials, even if it is later than expected.