It's inevitable that Dominic Toninato's progress will be closely tied to 2011 draft pick Tony Cameranesi's. Both were drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 5th round, both were selected out of Minnesota high schools, both spent a year in the USHL prior to starting their NCAA career, and both are now University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
Playing a season behind Cameranesi, Toninato has consistently put up more points than his counterpart - last season, Toninato scored 29 goals and 70 points in 64 games for Fargo of the USHL, tying for 8th in USHL scoring. To compare, Cameranesi scored 42 points in 55 games during his one-year stint in the USHL. Toninato also outscored Cameranesi during each of their three years in the Minnesota high school league.
Transitioning to the NCAA game may be a different story for Toninato however, as it will be the first time the two play for the same team. To make matters more difficult, Cameranesi had a pretty awesome season for Minnesota-Duluth last year, and will enter this year as the team's top centre. If Toninato expects to outscore his predecessor, he'll need to steal some ice time from him. It won't be easy, and I wouldn't be surprised if Toninato is unable to match Cameranesi's near point-per-game pace from last season because of it.
"Toninato is a diverse player that does many things well while not having any glaring weaknesses at this level of competition. One aspect of his game that is most noticeable is how well he moves for a bigger player, displaying high-end mobility and great overall speed… He has good hands in tight and is able to corral the pick with ease. Although Toninato has good puck control, his passing could use some added velocity and precision."
As Toninato continued to develop on these skills this past year, he also put on some significant bulk, adding 15 pounds to a frame that was only 165 when drafted. All of this hard work earned Toninato an invite to USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp earlier this month. One of 44 players invited, making Team USA’s World Juniors squad may be an uphill battle, but it shows how highly the program thinks of him.
Next year will provide us with a much better opportunity to gauge Toninato's chances of one day becoming an NHL player, when he faces off against better, stronger competition in the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Here's a video of Toninato speaking to LeafsTV following the Day Four of July's Leafs Prospect Camp: