Max Domi had a strong showing at the College Hockey showcase in Toronto. (Photo by Brody Hamilton/OHL Images)
On Monday night, College Hockey Inc. held a showcase in Toronto for a group of elite youngsters, the majority of which were 1995 birthdays. With the Ontario League draft coming up May 7, these kids are approaching the hour when they will decide whether to go the major junior route or the NCAA way, so College Hockey Inc. wanted to make its pitch. Many NCAA coaches were there, representing schools from Harvard and Dartmouth to Michigan State and Ohio State. More than 70 players took part in the event, which featured presentations and a meet-and-greet with the coaches. The kids were also split into four squads and faced off in a mini-tournament, with each team playing twice. Here are the players who stood out the most to me that evening.
Easily the best player in attendance, Domi is the son of Tie, but the opposite on the ice. Max is super-skilled and opened the scoring for Team Navy Blue with a laser to the top corner off the rush. Tenacious on the puck, Domi battles through traffic and is a stout 5-foot-9, 184 pounds. Selected by Indiana in the United States League futures draft, Domi is leaning towards the University of Michigan right now, but is waiting until after the OHL draft to make his final decision. If he goes to the NCAA, he’ll play for Indiana next year. A top-five talent for the OHL draft, don’t be surprised if his stock falls because of the Michigan factor. “I’m pretty confident most OHL teams know I’m leaning towards Michigan,” he said.
Another top-rated OHL draft prospect, DiFruscia also played for Team Navy Blue and scored the team’s second goal in a very similar fashion to Domi - off the rush, with a nice, accurate shot. A little bigger than Domi, DiFruscia unfortunately got banged up early in the second game and didn’t return to the ice.
One of the few 1994 birthdays in attendance, Dehaas was noticeable in both games for Team Royal Blue. Already 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, the defensive defenseman showed a great awareness of what his frame can accomplish, angling off attackers and using his reach to diffuse chances with minimal effort. While I originally thought Dehaas was strictly shutdown, he had a great rush in his second game that showed off impressive speed for a big man.
Leger isn’t a mammoth-sized goalie at 5-foot-10, but he makes up for it with smarts. An excellent puck-handler, he knows how to safely redistribute rebounds and always seemed to be square to the puck. He pitched a shutout for Team Navy Blue in the first game, though Barrie’s Peyton Backus may have scored as time expired. Leger’s battery mate in Don Mills, Charlie Graham, also looked good in net for Team Gray.
A standout on Team White, Nicoll has a great motor and is very tenacious. I can see him excelling as a top-end energy player, perhaps in a Stefan Della Rovere kind of way. Interestingly, Nicoll has also played ball hockey internationally for Canada.
Blueliner Mark Friedman of Don Mills played solid ‘D’ and showed good rushing ability; Mississauga Senators forward Nicholas Santoro was strong on the puck and made smart moves; Barrie forward Peyton Backus has a tremendous shot.
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