When an 18-year old draft-eligible center leads his team in points en route to a 1st place finish in the Ontario Hockey League, the top junior hockey league in the world, people following the draft take notice.
When that same player leads his team again in playoff points as they win the OHL championship and play in the Memorial Cup, scouts and hockey fans alike begin paying very close attention.
When that player is described by scouts as a "very dangerous playmaker with elite level vision" and someone that "possesses dynamic qualities when creating offense"...well, normally it would be safe to say that such a player is a slam dunk prospect that everyone is excited about.
However, there is a player that fits all those descriptions, but in spite of the glowing praise still remains one of the most polarizing and contestable prospects heading into the upcoming NHL entry draft.
That player is Max Domi.
Playing on the OHL's London Knights in 2012-2013, Domi had a tremendous year, scoring 87 points in 64 games during the regular season, good enough for Top 10 in the league, before adding 32 more in 21 games as he played a leading role in powering the Knights through the playoffs.
The son of former NHLer and infamous enforcer Tie Domi, Max inherited his father's stocky frame. He's below-average in terms of height, at a modest 5'10", but weighs in at roughly 190 pounds. Built like a cannon ball, most worries about Domi's stature translating to the NHL are offset by his impressive strength and frame, as scouts are unanimous in their praise of how hard it is to knock Domi off the puck and how well he can win battles along the boards.
What dramatically separates Max from his father, however, are his offensive abilities. Possessing some of the slickest, fasted hands in the draft, Domi is capable of making a play happen in any situation, even when no options appear available. His high hockey IQ allows him to easily read offensive situations and find his teammates with passes while moving into the attacking zone, while his explosive acceleration, strong lower body and aggressive work ethic make him equally adept at producing points while crashing the net and fighting in the crease.
Even though Max doesn't share his father's fondness for fisticuffs, he doesn't shy away from the physical side of the game, either. He can be a punishing hitter when he builds up speed, and is more than comfortable entering the dirty areas of the ice.
The most impressive thing about Domi is his compete level. Consistently one of the hardest working players on the ice, Domi plays all 200 feet of the ice very well and rarely gives up on a play, providing an infectious energy that teammates can feed off of. What's more, he has an elite desire to win and a big-game mentality, making him a go-to guy in the third period of games as well as in the playoffs, as this season with London showed.
Despite all the things that Domi does well, many of which are already at an NHL-level, fan reaction towards him is often negative, and this seems to stem from his bloodlines more than anything else, as Tie Domi was a hated villain throughout many corners of the league. This comparison is unfair, however, as father and son in this case are two very, very different hockey players. While Max will chirp and scrap and hack, he does so mostly on the right side of "the line," and those things come secondary to his desire to produce points. There is a lot of talk about the word "attitude" around Domi, and many like to point this out as being an issue that should make teams wary of drafting him, but scouts don't seem to share the same sense of concern.
If anything, Domi seems like the type of player that will develop into a more highly-skilled version of a guy like Steve Ott or Brad Marchand: a player that you'll hate when you have to play against him, but an instant fan-favorite when he's on your team.
Will Domi be a target for the Stars come June 30th? That's a tough call. He's usually placed around the 10th-15th spot in draft rankings, so he's likely a tier below the guys that Jim Nill is looking at with the 10th overall pick. But given Dallas' need to bolster their prospect pool at center, and the run on forwards that is projected to happen before the 10th overall pick, Domi will definitely be a player that is worth keeping an eye on.
Max is the son of former enforcer Tie Domi, but he differs completely from his father in talent level. Max is a highly-skilled player who can impact an offense in multiple ways. One NHL source said he possesses clearly high-end playmaking abilities. He controls the puck, and he can make quality passes in a multitude of ways: slowing the game from the sideboards, through tight spaces in pressure, or saucers over a defender's stick. Although he is undersized at 5'9", he has very quick feet, and he displays a good level of speed and agility. He has the explosiveness a small player needs to play on a top line in the NHL. Combining his speed with his high-end puck skills makes Domi a dangerous scoring threat. Domi possesses dynamic qualities when creating offense, but often, he tries to be too fancy. He has a high on-ice work ethic and he does not shy from contact despite his size. He will need to improve his defense at the next level.
Domi is a very dangerous playmaker with elite level vision. He's always in the right place in the offensive zone, and uses his elite vision to find open teammates. His mobility, agility and acceleration are all very high-end. His balance and puck control is truly incredible and bigger, stronger players have a hard time getting the puck off him due to his strong lower body. Domi uses his puck skills to get into scoring areas or to feed a pass to an open teammate. He's not afraid to drive the net and use his impressive puck skills to beat a goaltender in tight.
Sometimes you watch Domi on the ice dipsy-doodling through an entire roster and you wonder how this kid won't succeed. But other times you watch him unnecessarily dipsy-doodling through an entire roster as his teammates stand with their sticks at the ready, only to turn the puck over in the neutral zone, and you wonder if he'll ever get it.
Domi is truly a kid whose talents are bigger than the game he plays. That's fine when you' better than 90 per cent of the other kids on the ice, but he'll have to find a way to integrate his teammates in the game more as he progresses as he won't have that freedom to freewheel.
He does have great hands and when he chooses to pass, can be absolutely spectacular in that skill. Domi's also not afraid to mix it up, but can be goaded into retaliatory penalties.