August 22, 2013

Danton Cole

The Winnipeg Jets drafted Danton in 1985 with their 6th choice, 123rd overall. At the time Cole had just graduated high school and was headed to play university hockey, so the Jets knew it would be a while before he would ever crack a professional lineup. Cole played admirably for the Michigan State Spartans for 4 years (1985-89). He scored 69 goals and 163 points in 180 games. He was the team's scoring leader in both his junior and senior years.

Attending university can be either good or bad as far as pursuing NHL opportunities later on. While the player has more time to develop his skills and mature as both a hockey player and a person, you also turn pro relatively late, often at the age of 23 or 24. At that age you don't have a whole lot of time to prove you can play at the NHL level before you get labeled.

Perhaps that is exactly what happened to Danton. After learning the pro game with a solid rookie season in the AHL, Cole played parts of 2 seasons with the Jets. For the most part Cole was used as a 4th line checker despite his background as a goal scorer. Cole became labeled as an expendable winger.

The Jets dumped Cole on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the summer of 1992. It was a good move for Danton as he had the opportunity to play with the expansion franchise. He responded reasonably well, even recording a 20 goal season in 1993-94.

Cole became somewhat of a hockey ping-pong ball after that season. Traded in the next season to New Jersey, he became a spare part there to finish the season. He signed as a free agent with the New york Islanders in 1995 but spent most of his time in the minors before being traded to Chicago, where he also spent of his time in the minors. He only played 10 games for NY, and 2 for Chicago.

The minors became Cole's permanent home after his 2 game sniff in the Windy City. He also spent part of a season in Germany.

A good skater, Cole is a good example of how a scoring prospect doesn't always translate in the NHL. A good scorer in college, he had trouble performing where the pace was quicker, the hits were harder and the play was just better. While he played in excess of 300 games, he was pretty much an expendable 3rd or 4th line winger who benefited from 1990s expansion.

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