Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Jerry D’Amigo has made an immediate impact with the Kitchener Rangers since his NHL club announced they would be loaning him to the Ontario Hockey League team last Thursday.
The 19-year-old forward started this season with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, playing in 41 games and collecting five goals, nine assists and 14 points, along with 23 penalty minutes.
As far as OHL hockey goes, this will D’Amigo’s first stint in the league, having played minor hockey with the U.S. National Under-18 team, before playing his freshman year at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the ECAC, where he recorded 10 goals, 24 assists and 34 points in 35 games in 2009-10.
He also represented the United States this year at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo, NY, when the team captured a bronze medal. D’Amigo helped te team out with a goal and one assist in six games of the tournament.
D’Amigo played in his first OHL game on February 4 when the Rangers hosted the Plymouth Whalers. He scored his first OHL goal with the help of World Junior opponent and Swedish captain Gabriel Landeskog in the 6-3 victory over Plymouth, while also adding an assist.
His second game occurred on Sunday, Feb. 6 when Kitchener battled it out with the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds, picking up a 4-2 win. D’Amigo mirrored his first performance with another two-point game, assisting on the Rangers’ third and game-winning goal, while also scoring the team’s fourth goal – both on the power play.
What a smart move by the Toronto organization to send this promising forward to get a taste of CHL hockey. Judging by his first two games, his role with Kitchener will be prominent than it was with the Marlies, as expected, allowing him much more ice time and special teams play than he was seeing in the AHL.
The move could really improve the 5.11”, 208-pounder’s game. We’ve seen what OHL development can do for prospects such as Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, and the countless other elite talents that the league breeds.
With an American-born player like D’Amgio coming out with just one year off college hockey experience, playing a season in the OHL could speed up his game to the point of seeing him in a few games with the Leafs next season.
At the very least, if D’Amigo cannot crack the Toronto line-up next year, the experience he will gain in the last half of this season with a successful OHL club will without a doubt improve his game and give him more success in the AHL, should he return to the Marlies for is over-aged year.
That being said, once again, the Leafs have a lot to work to do. Starting with the current issues with Phil Kessel, to the goaltending debacle the club seems to have reoccurring each season, Brian Burke and company will have to get used to an enhanced media spotlight throughout the remainder of the season.