There's no denying Arizona Coyotes prospect Max Domi possesses the offensive tools required to one day play an integral role in the lineup, but his adjustment to reach that status remains in question.
Of all the players on NHL.com's Top 60 prospect rankings, Domi was the most divisive. The 19-year-old was ranked as high as No. 12 and as low as No. 53 on the six lists submitted; the other four lists had him No. 16, No. 30, No. 32 and No. 42. Some evaluators point to Domi's 5-foot-9, 197-pound frame as a hindrance to his development. Others feel it's just maturity. Then there's some who believe he's ready to be an NHL regular.
"I think Max has a tremendous upside as an offensive player and has shown an ability to dominate at the junior level, but maybe there's some prejudice because of his size," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said. "I think it's just maturity to be honest; there are times when he tries too hard. Whether or not he'll star in the League this November or two Novembers from now, I can't tell you."
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If Domi, who has starred the past three seasons with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, does make the cut out of training camp, will he be able to handle the rigors of an 82-game regular season in the tough Pacific Division?
"Max is a highly skilled player with very good upside but right now his game is too one dimensional for some," Scout B, who works for an Eastern Conference team, told NHL.com. "He needs to use his linemates more effectively in order to have success at the pro level. There is some concern with how his game will translate at the NHL level. Scouts know he is a very gifted offensive player, but may need to prove his worth on the other side of the puck."
In a recent radio interview with Sportsnet 590, Domi acknowledged the need to repair some parts of his game in order to succeed at the next level.
"You've got to be changing stuff in your game year in and year out, especially when you're trying to crack the NHL to start with," Domi said. "There's a lot of stuff you can do in junior that you can't do at the next level, and the Hunters [London coach Dale Hunter and London GM Mark Hunter] have addressed that and showed me what I had to do."
In three seasons with London, Domi has 94 goals and 229 points in 187 games, a 1.22 point-per-game average. He also has 209 penalty minutes and a plus-70 rating. He was one of the last players cut from the Coyotes' training camp last season and has his sights set on solidifying an NHL spot this fall.
"I would say his stock probably fell over the last year," Scout C said. "Some selfishness crept into his game. I like his skill and compete, but the individual-ness needs to be addressed."
It's one reason Domi could find himself back in London for one final season before turning pro. Then again, he could impress the coaching staff enough into keeping him for at least the nine-game trial before the entry-level contract he signed in July 2013 officially kicks in.
"The mental grind that every 19-year-old goes through playing against men every night isn't easy and that's why you don't see many 19-year-old players in the League," Maloney said. "Unless we can give Max the right ice time to continue his development, he's better off playing somewhere else.
"We've learned the hard way with some of the decisions we've made in the past about keeping young players and we're not going to do that if we don't think he'll be a regular NHL player because he's still young and he's going to play this game for a long time. Hopefully, it'll blossom this training camp and, if not, we'll deal with it."
Fortunately for Domi, he's had the benefit of playing for Dale Hunter the past three seasons in London; he also played 42 games for Mark Hunter while Dale coached the Washington Capitals in 2011-12.
"The good thing for us is that Dale Hunter is an excellent coach; he's a pro-style coach," Maloney said. "He'd be coaching in the NHL today if that was his choosing, so what Dale is telling Max is exactly what [Coyotes coach] Dave Tippett would be saying."
When told of Domi's ranking on the six lists submitted for NHL.com's Top 60 prospect package, Maloney noted that the son of former NHL player Tie Domi remains atop the organization's depth chart of players on the verge of making the roster.
"I feel we've got a good team with excellent coaching, but at the end of the day you still need people who can make plays with the puck," Maloney said. "When the puck is on Max's stick, he's an NHL player. It's the rest of his game that will determine his place. Whether or not he does make the team doesn't take away from what a terrific young player he is and the type of player he'll be for us."