The Toronto Maple Leafs were built for the Domi family.
Toronto fans adore players who are rugged, tough, underdog types who wear their hearts on the blue and white sleeve. It took Max Domi, who possesses more finesse and less of the pugilistic attitude his father Tie championed in his years with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a few games, but he’s finally giving the Leafs some inspired play.
When Leafs general manager Brad Treliving signed Domi this past offseason to a one-year deal, it was unclear what kind of role Domi would have on a team full of top-end talent like centers Auston Matthews and captain John Tavares plus wingers Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe initially tried Domi as the right winger on a line with David Kampf as his center. The third member of that line was typically rookie Matthew Knies, who has rightfully since been moved to the No. 1 line with Matthews and Marner.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Max Domi Thrives as the Third-Line Center
After 11 games of lackluster production for the Leafs’ bottom-six, Keefe decided to make a change. With Knies promoted, Domi moved to center, a move made to maximize speed, and Nicholas Robertson was called up from the Toronto Marlies to give the third-line some scoring punch.
The outcome has been fantastic. Domi, now able to see more of the ice and utilize his playmaking abilities, has stabilized the third-line and has been a huge reason why Robertson may eventually get time on one of the top two lines.
“I’m more of a passer and he’s a trigger guy,” Domi said, per Maple Leafs Insider. “I told him to just find his spot and I’ll find him.”
Domi has found Robertson quite often. He has eight points in his last seven games, even though he only averages about 13 minutes of playing time per game. The switch also allowed Keefe to move Kampf down to the fourth-line, which is a limited role that much better suits a guy who can win the odd faceoff and kill penalties.
Max Domi Breathes Life into Calle Järnkrok
The other sequelae from Knies being bumped up was that Calle Järnkrok, who had a career high 20 goals with the Leafs last year, needed to find a home on a new line.
With Domi having more touches as a center, his game has excelled and since he does not get much power-play time, his points have all come at 5v5 when it is tougher to score. Domi leads the Leafs with points at 5v5, since his move to center. In fact the Robertson-Domi-Järnkrok trio has a 72% Expected Goals Percentage.
Järnkrok has experienced somewhat of a resurgence with lesser responsibilities on the third-line. The Swedish winger had one goal through 11 games B.D. (Before Domi) and has four A.D. (After Domi) in seven contests.
Domi has set up both Knies and Robertson for some of the nicest goals the Leafs may score all season. His sick passing skills and penchant to create may remind many fans of one of his father’s teammates: Doug Gilmour. However, Max is still a Domi through and through – because, of course, he leads the Leafs in penalty minutes.