Dal Colle, Aho Ready For All-Star Weekend
By Alan Fuehring (@alanfuehring) / Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Some of the world's best young prospects will take center stage in Springfield, Massachusetts this weekend, putting their skills on display in the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic, presented by MGM Springfield. Among the nearly 50 players expected to take center stage, a pair of New York Islanders draft picks, Michael Dal Colle and Sebastian Aho, will represent the Atlantic Division and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the American Hockey League's showcase event.
“Extremely well-deserved honor for both of these young players,” head coach Brent Thompson said. “Both guys have created offense and played a solid 200-foot game for us, and they are big pieces for our success up until this point. I know they will represent Bridgeport well and I wish them all the best.”
Dal Colle, who is headed to his first All-Star Classic appearance, continues to lead the Sound Tigers with a career-high 16 goals this season, despite playing just 28 AHL games due to call-ups with the Islanders. Seven of those goals came in a span of four games from Dec. 14-21, which helped him earn CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors on Dec. 17. It has certainly been a memorable season for the fifth overall pick in 2014.
“Being picked as an all-star is really cool. It's definitely a big deal and a big honor,” Dal Colle told the New York media during his recent call-up with the Islanders. “A lot of great players have been in that game, so to be named there with Sebastian Aho, it's going be a great experience.”
In addition to Dal Colle's AHL success, the 22-year-old has also played 13 games with the Isles this season and scored his first NHL goal one week ago on Jan. 17 against the New Jersey Devils. He is one of 35 first-time AHL All-Stars and 13 former first- or second-round draft choices.
“It was a big offseason for me which led into the year, and I got a good start in the American League,” Dal Colle added. “I got a good taste up here as well, went back down, had some good chemistry with my line mates, and we are really having a good year in Bridgeport. Obviously, my goal is to play more up here and I'm looking to make the best of it.”
The third-year forward was returned to the Sound Tigers on Wednesday along with 2017 AHL All-Star Devon Toews. And as Dal Colle gets set to take over the MassMutual Center this Sunday and Monday, it was inside that exact venue where he got the news of his most recent recall on Dec. 28. It led to him playing against his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs the next night.
“That was kind of a whirlwind of a day,” Dal Colle said. “I got the call in Springfield after our game there, had like a 5:20 a.m. shuttle from my house to LaGuardia and got to Toronto at 12. I didn't really know if I was playing and then when I saw my name on the board, it was kind of a whirlwind. To play in front of family and friends, it was incredible.”
Aho is also having a standout season in the AHL and his 26 points (three goals, 23 assists) in 36 games currently puts him in a tie for 11th place among all AHL defensemen. This is Aho's second straight All-Star selection, but the 22-year-old was unable to play in last year's event due to his first career call-up with the Islanders, where he played 22 games including his NHL debut on Dec. 31, 2017.
He becomes just the third Sound Tiger to ever earn back-to-back all-star selections behind Rick DiPietro (2002, 03) and Ryan Pulock (2015, 16).
“Although I wasn't able to play last year, it looks like a lot of fun and something that I'm looking forward to,” Aho said. “Everybody's out there having a good time, making some nice plays, and showing the audience something they don't always see.”
“In the skills competition, I hope I get one of the sharp-shooter events because I feel like I have a chance to win there. I'm just excited to relax and join the fun.”
As far as Aho's concerned, Monday's 3-on-3 All-Star Challenge will suit his style completely.
“I feel really comfortable in 3-on-3 overtimes and usually play pretty well. It will be fun to be able to jump in the rush and hopefully score some goals.”
The 2019 AHL All-Star Skills Competition will be held Sunday, Jan. 27 (7 p.m. ET), pitting the All-Stars from the two Eastern Conference divisions against those from the two Western Conference divisions in seven skills events.
In the 2019 AHL All-Star Challenge on Monday, Jan. 28 (7 p.m. ET), the four teams will participate in a 3-on-3, round-robin tournament featuring six games of 10 minutes each. The two teams with the best records at the end of the round-robin will face off for the championship, a six-minute, 3-on-3 game.
Tickets for the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield are priced at $39, $49, $59 and $99, and include admission to both the Skills Competition and the All-Star Challenge. Tickets are available now at springfieldthunderbirds.com/allstar.
The 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield will also air live to national audiences on NHL Network in the United States and on Sportsnet ONE and Sportsnet NOW in Canada.