Max Domi is loving every second with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Steven Ellis2 months ago
Spending time with your father in an NHL dressing room is one thing. It’s another for that room to eventually become your own.
He’s only been here for a few weeks, but Toronto Maple Leafs forward Max Domi already feels at home. Each time he puts on his skates at Scotiabank Arena, he looks over to William Nylander, who sits in the same spot Tie Domi did during his 11-year run with the club. It was in that same building that made No. 28 a popular jersey number in the city, with Tie willing to drop the gloves with just about anyone – including hecklers – on any given night.
“It’s pretty surreal,” the younger Domi said. “Growing up [here], the building hasn’t changed much, the staff is all pretty similar, and the locker room is almost identical. It definitely feels like home.”
But Max is ready to forge his own story in the blue and white. Domi can bring the energy to any shift and lay out a few hits, but his playmaking makes him a valuable lineup member. He’s a buzzsaw that never stops roaring.
“He plays with his heart and soul,” said Mitch Marner, who also served as Domi’s linemate with the OHL’s London Knights. “I’ve seen it first-hand. He’s a helluva guy to have on your team. He’s a frisky little guy out there and likes to be in the mix. He’s going to bring a lot of character, a lot of speed, a lot of great plays and he’ll be fiery out there too.”
Domi scored his first goal in a Leafs uniform on Monday, scoring the 3-1 goal to give Toronto some breathing room. The Leafs ultimately lost 5-4 in overtime.
Overlooking a blown lead in a preseason contest, there’s been so much to like about Domi’s presence. Skating on the third line with William Nylander and Nick Robertson last night, Domi’s playmaking was on full display. His skating stood out, and he can be a bit of a menace in front of the net. When he shoots, he can really shoot, and that’s why Toronto looked in control for a bit on Monday.
Domi’s hot play has been a popular topic over the extended exhibition slate.
“Max, in particular, showed his playmaking ability and I was really intrigued to see that with Willie, who is one of our most dangerous players on the rush,” coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters after Toronto’s first game against Ottawa last week. “I think it’s a real strength of Max’s game, is to go out and create and pressure people.”
For Domi, the preseason was all about experimenting and getting used to his surroundings. Even though it’s familiar territory for the 28-year-old, there were questions about where he’d fit into the lineup. Domi has experience at all three forward positions, but seems to have found a spot on the third line as Keefe looks to spread out the offensive options.
Domi had a career-best 72 points with Montreal in 2019-20, his fourth season in the NHL. He hasn’t come close to that in the meantime, but he still had 56 points in 80 games between Dallas and Chicago, and proved to be a valuable playoff performer with the Stars.
Add in his willingness to land hits, and there’s a reason the Leafs brought him in.
“He’s a fire hydrant,” Tavares said last week. “He’s got the width to him in the lower half and he’s able to get over the puck and be strong on it.”
“That checks out, for sure,” Domi said with a laugh when asked about Tavares’ comment. “Not the tallest guy, but pretty wide, I guess, so that makes sense. That’s a nice compliment. Thanks, Johnny.”
There was no shortage of Domi No. 11 jerseys in the crowd on Monday, and as the season wears on, he’ll continue being a fan favourite. But he also has quite a bit to prove: he’s on yet another one-year deal. But he’s in the city he wants to be with a chance to make some noise in the playoffs, where he always seems to have an impact.
And that’s exactly what the Leafs need.
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