Max Domi has been hearing comments about his height for years.
Before Domi was even drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs s in the 2011 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, his size was being heavily criticized. Those concerns about his OHL potential are well out of the way now. But really, they’ve only turned into concerns regarding his National Hockey League future.
Domi was traded to the London Knights before his rookie OHL season began. Right away, Domi made a positive impression. As was written in the Toronto Sun, Domi came to the security door on the first day of camp and “introduced himself to the security personnel saying, ‘Hi, my name is Max Domi and I’ll be playing for the Knights this year. And you are . . . ?'”
Being the son of a legendary Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer has given Domi the opportunity to grow up surrounded by hockey influence. When he was younger, Domi would regularly skate on the same ice as Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, and Mats Sundin. The perks of being Tie Domi’s son have clearly had an impact on the Knights forward’s competitive nature.
“The thing he does have from dad is that he plays with grit and is unafraid,” NHL Central Scouting’s David Gregory told NHL.com. “I haven’t seen any signs that would indicate that Max won’t continue to develop. He’s got the pedigree to play as a pro athlete, and in my eyes is a legitimate first-round candidate.”
Domi’s stature is really the only issue observers have with his game. It’s clear his skill is well above the norm, but at 5’10”, 190 pounds, the concern is that Domi will get pushed around in the NHL. Based on his play against large defencemen in the OHL, it may not be that big of an issue. Nevertheless, it’s a legitimate worry.
Coming back to Domi’s skill, his coaches in London have no problem promoting the magic Domi can create with the puck on his stick.
“He has extensive offensive skills and his skating ability is — and I hate to say it — [Sidney] Crosby-esque,” Knights head coach Dale Hunter said. “You never want to compare [a player] to someone like that, but he has a very strong lower torso, so his center of gravity is amazing.”
Hold up. Sidney Crosby? Really? It’s certainly a lofty comparison, but if Domi’s to have a pro to look up to, Crosby’s not exactly a bad choice.
“After only a couple of hours with [Crosby] you understand why he is the best in the world,” Domi told NHL.com. “He works extraordinarily hard.”
That work ethic is something Domi truly believes will make him successful. As a smaller player, Domi understands that he’ll need to work harder than others to push himself into the world’s best hockey league. Scoring 39 goals in 62 games with London this season will certainly help him come draft day. Add in his 45 assists and his plus-32 rating, and Domi has put up impressive numbers. The Knights are undeniably one of the best teams in the Canadian Hockey League, but 84 points as a first year draft-eligible isn’t easy to do regardless of what team one is on.
In early January, an interview between Domi and Paul Hendrick of Leafs TV was released. Take a look and hear Domi’s thoughts on both his younger days and his current life with the Knights. Take note of his hands when game footage is shown.
“[Domi's] still putting up points when he has a top checker on him and he competes every time he’s out there,” Gregory said. “People may question his size, but Max is the type of guy who will keep answering those questions every time with his play on the ice.”
And that’s just what Domi has been doing for years. Even during his days with the Don Mills Flyers AAA team in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, Domi was denounced because he was shorter than most others. The fact he was often the best player on the ice didn’t always mean a whole lot. Throw in that his last name is Domi, and expectations were suddenly much higher. Now that he’s having success in the OHL, smaller players in AAA hockey are being given a little more respect by fans who follow the minor midget age group.
Taking home the 2012 OHL Championship with the Knights has given Domi the chance to know what winning really feels like. Players with a background of winning, especially athletes with both winning and a former NHLer for a father, find themselves with an advantage over others their age. Come June 30, Domi’s history can only benefit him.
“He competes hard every game and battles in traffic,” Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards told NHL.com. “[Domi] has a toughness about him that is appreciated by everyone.”
Sounds just like Tie. Except in Max Domi’s case, the plan is to be even more appreciated than his father.