Max Domi revisits 2014 Team Canada snub, has no regrets

BROSSARD, Que. — For Maxi Domi, stiff-upper-lipping it last fall was the best move he could have made in the context of Team Canada.

The national junior team took the novel route last season of only inviting 25 players to its December selection camp, which left high NHL first-rounders with Toronto-area ties such as Domi and Edmonton Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse on the outside looking in. There was really no how-to for how to handle it. Not too long ago, the world junior championship wasn't such a big deal that an uninvited Canadian junior star was compelled to offer public comment, but a smaller camp roster and more media demands dictated. Nurse spoke to reporters who cover his Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Domi and his London Knights opted to issue a statement, which is a statement in itself about how big this world junior deal has become.

In the hockey world, doing it that way counts as defusing a situation.

"It's not like you can change what happens," the 19-year-old Arizona Coyotes prospect said Wednesday before Canada's second summer camp exhibition game vs. Russia in Sherbrooke, Que. "Me talking to the media or not talking to the media isn't all of sudden going to put me on the team. That's just the way I decided to handle it and the London Knights were great. They guided me through that whole situation and process. Hopefully it will be a little different this time.

"At the end of the day, people can think what they want," Domi added when asked about public response to doing it by press release. "People are going to try find ways to put you down or something like that. That's just how I chose to handle it and that's how the London Knights chose to handle it. It worked out for the best."

To Hockey Canada. It suggested Domi wasn't committing the faux pas of putting himself ahead of the 25 who were selected. Two fellow Knights, Josh Anderson and Bo Horvat, were on the team that ultimately finished fourth in Malmo, Sweden.

"Max is a professional," Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski said on Wednesday. "He's a quality, quality kid. He was very accepting and understanding of what happened. My interaction with Max since has been phenomenal. He's here with the right attitude. He's always had the right attitude; it's just that now he's a 19-year-old. He's a little bit more mature and we'll see through the games this week how he handles it.

"He's been around it [how close hockey players are monitored] his whole life," Jankowski adds. "There's that factor. There's the London Knight factor. They do things extremely professional. But that's the right way. Take a deep breath, compose yourself and come out in front of the cameras. He's been exceptional since."

Even nearly a year later, it's hard to have total perspective on Hockey Canada's decisions with players who are not yet fully grown adults. Domi did not have a bad summer development camp in August; just not one that made him irreplaceable. His first half in London was affected by an extended stay with the Coyotes and a suspension for elbowing a player in the head in his first game back with the Knights.

From Dec. 1 onward, his production increased and he finished with 93 points across 61 games. He also took fewer penalties down the stretch, which might indicate that he's learning to harness the famous emotion that defined father Tie's career.

'Have to have that sensation burning'

Jankowski also shed some light on why Hockey Canada puts a premium on taking 19-year-olds to the WJC over younger players. There's more to it than just physical growth.

"As past history with a 19-year-old versus an 18-year-old shows, the 18-year-olds come in, they're excited, they try to show off a bit more," he said. "That maturity, that age difference, is a huge thing."

Domi's confluence of skill and not-to-be-denied nose for will make an intriguing possibility. Think back to how Jordan Eberle was a catalyst when Canada won its last gold medal in 2009 and took silver in '10 after an overtime loss to Team USA. The quality Eberle brought — the goal scorer who's intense — has arguably been missing the past few years.

"You have to have that sensation burning in you no matter what," Domi said.

Granted, as with any elite 19-year-old, there is the mystery of whether Domi will be available in mid-December. Based on the Coyotes' organizational depth, there might be an opening.

"There's a lot of summer left," Domi said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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