August 29 2014 07:47AM
What can be said about Dominic Toninato that explains why we think that he’s the 16th best prospect in the Maple Leafs organization? Last year we had the excitement of him being above a point per game in the USHL which was good enough to put him 15th in our rankings. He looked to be following a path similar to Tony Cameranesi, in fact, his USHL numbers were better than Cameranesi’s, and he’s bigger. Both are fast Minnesotan kids attending University of Minnesota Duluth, their paths are similar so their rankings often are too.
In last year’s ranking Justin correctly predicted that Toninato wouldn’t be able to match Cameranesi’s freshman year success, largely because he’d have to play behind Cameranesi. Toninato’s 15 points were a far cry from a point a game pace, and was good enough from 9th on the Bulldogs. Based on point totals and number of face-offs Toninato was the third line center for the club behind Cole Herbert (Capitals 2011 5th rd. pick) and Cameranesi. Considering his role maybe it’s impressive that Toninato was able to match Cameranesi’s goal total, and lead the team in shorthanded goals (2), and face-offs taken (although his winning percentage isn’t great.) Toninato had 6 points last season when Duluth was leading, 5 when they were trailing and 4 when the score was even. This information again points to Toninato having a coach feeling comfortable using him in all situations, a considerable accomplishment for a freshman center. (stats used in this post can be found on College Hockey Inc.)
The biggest positive to take away from this is that Toninato was good enough to be on the ice a lot. While we don’t know his actual time on ice, we know he was out there for the most face-offs, and his 2 shorthanded goals, and his 4 powerplay assists point to some special teams time as well. As a sophomore this should increase and that is particularly aided by Cole Herbert signing with the Capitals. With the chance to create more offense hopefully we’ll see more than two shots per game out of Toninato, and with maintaining or improving on his 9.9% shooting percentage he could realistically have double digit goals next season.
What does Toninato look like as a Leafs prospect? He longs like one that still has three years before he sets foot in Toronto. While Toninato had a decent first year it wasn’t one that inspires a hockey club to pull him out of school to compete for a position on the Leafs or Marlies. If Toninato were to join the Leafs organization today he probably wouldn’t have cracked the top 20 of this list and would struggle to get ice time on the Marlies. It’s the time the NCAA allows him to develop that pushes him past similar players like Sam Carrick. At this point it is Toninato’s speed and the chance to prove himself in increased roles that are his best friend and while I have no doubt that he’s worth signing to entry level contract there is no certainty at this point that he can go any further than being a valued member of the Marlies.
In retrospect, some of us might have been a little high on a guy who projects as a long shot to be a bottom six forward in the NHL and we might have overly appreciated USHL numbers and talks of speedy skates.
Here's what Dominic Toninato has to say...