GLENDALE - Coyotes forward Max Domi avoided a sophomore slump in 2016-17, but what he didn't avoid was a lengthy stint on the sideline because of injury.
Domi, 22, fractured a hand bone during a fight with Calgary's Garnet Hathaway on Dec. 8 and missed 23 games over the next eight weeks. But he finished the season strong, and ranked third on the team with 38 points in 59 games.
"It was a tough year," Domi said. "It wasn't fun, that's for sure … I learned a lot about myself and about how you've got to really respect and appreciate being in the lineup every single night in the NHL. It's almost a good thing going down the road, I think. I'm looking forward to a good summer. Hopefully next year is a different story."
Domi won't alter the feistiness with which he plays the game, but he said he would pick his battles better. He's learned he's not invincible and that he's needed in the lineup on a regular basis.
Losing Domi helped derail the Coyotes on their quest to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs; they suffered a season-long, nine-game losing streak while he was out of the lineup. After he returned, Arizona posted a 14-14-4 record to close the season.
"The last part of the season, I thought he played real well," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "He's another guy that kind of gets overlooked, but he's a guy that will steadily push himself into that leadership role. He's a key player for us moving forward."
Video: Max Domi discusses 2016-17 season, team's future
Domi has notched 90 points (27 goals, 63 assists) in 140 games through two NHL seasons. He's tied with Peter Mueller for the most points produced by a Coyotes player in his first two years in the League.
Domi created an internet buzz on Nov. 4 when he fought Anaheim's Ryan Kesler and dropped the veteran to the ice with one punch, an uppercut to the bigger man's chin. Not long after that bout, Domi was featured in a Rolling Stone article in which he detailed how his father, Tie Domi, taught him the keys to hockey fighting.
"I'm definitely not one to go look for a fight," Domi told Rolling Stone. "But there's a point in time where you have to step in for your teammates or protect yourself. He definitely did give me little pointers here and there on how to stick up for myself."
Domi already is looking forward to next season. He says a big key for the Coyotes will be winning games in October. Until then, he'll count the days until training camp.
"You miss the game right away," Domi said. "I wish we were playing in a game tomorrow. We have a lot of time to sit back and reflect and get ready to go for a big summer."