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Recap: Domi finds his groove in Montreal

Habs centerman enjoyed a breakout season in 2018-19, proving he's the perfect fit for the hockey hotbed

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - The only item that went unchecked on Max Domi's to-do list for his first year in Montreal was a first career NHL playoff appearance.

Other than that, Domi's first go-round in a Canadiens uniform was a resounding success. He enjoyed the most productive season of his young NHL career, became a monumental figure in the Montreal locker room and the city as a whole, and did it all with a big smile on his face to reflect the love and adoration he quickly developed for his new hockey home.

When Domi first arrived in Montreal, skeptics were wondering whether he'd live up to his billing as the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes' first-round pick (16th overall) in 2013 after scoring just nine goals - four of them empty-netters - in 82 games in his last year in the desert.

Well, the Winnipeg native put those doubts to rest with a 28-goal, 72-point performance that rocketed him to the top of the Montreal scoring list and placed him in a similar position in the hearts of Habs fans the world over - and in the minds of his teammates, too.

Video: MTL@NYR: Domi roofs backhand on power play

"I didn't really know Max much before the season. But even when he wasn't putting points on the board, he brought a great attitude and a great work ethic," shared Carey Price. "And I think that's important for any player, even when they're not feeling it. He didn't go through very many of those stretches this season. He brought a consistent work ethic to us."

That work ethic resulted in Domi and fellow newcomer Tomas Tatar becoming just the third pair of teammates in franchise history to finish first and second in team scoring in their inaugural season in Montreal. They also became only the fourth pair of teammates to each score 25 goals in their first season in Montreal.

Video: EDM@MTL: Domi finishes beautiful wraparound

Domi's 72-point haul was also the fifth-highest points total in team history for a player in his first season as a Hab.

Tweet from @StatsCentre: With his assist tonight, Max Domi passes Mats Naslund (1982-83) & Kjell Dahlin (1985-86) for the 5th most points by a player in their 1st season as a member of the @CanadiensMTL (72)

All this while moving to center, a position he had played throughout his hockey career but one he hadn't been assigned on a permanent basis at the NHL level until this year.

The 24-year-old may have been happy with that transition, but feels he can still do more nonetheless.

"There's definitely still a lot of room for improvement, that's for sure - whether it's faceoffs, in your own zone, or just playing a 200-foot game. It's a great position," recounted Domi, who took the second-most amount of faceoffs on the team and won 44.9% of his draws. "You have the puck a lot on your stick and you can make plays. It's a big part of the team, so I really enjoyed it."

Off the ice, Domi made his mark as a leader and an advocate. As a type-1 diabetic himself, Domi often took time to meet with young fans living with the condition after practices and games. He went out of his way to surprise children in the community and play ball hockey with them on several occasions, and made a point of speaking up in support of LGBTQ+ athletes.

For his efforts, Domi was recently announced as the team's nominee for the King Clancy Memorial trophy, awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.

In short Domi, the son of longtime Maple Leafs enforcer Tie, doesn't shy away from the spotlight; rather, he thrives in it.

Put all together and it's clear that Domi and the Canadiens are a match made in hockey heaven. And if it's up to him, that match will be one that last a very, very long time.

Video: Max Domi on his first season in Montreal

"I'm extremely proud to be a part of this organization. This is the best franchise in all of sports. To wear that jersey and represent this city and this fan base on a daily basis is something that I definitely don't take for granted. It's something I enjoyed very much," glowed Domi at the team's end-of-season media opportunity. "And the teammates I got to share it with this year were pretty special too, so it was fun. I really, really enjoyed it, coming to work every day and having fun. And playing in front of those fans at the Bell Centre is something that you really can't put into words until you experience it.

"It was awesome," he concluded. "I really enjoyed being a Hab and I hope I can be a Hab for life."

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