Max Domi has set himself apart with his nose for the net.
Three years ago, current Carolina Hurricanes centre Jeff Skinner was the undersized point machine in the Ontario Hockey League whose gaudy playoff spots outstripped his spot in the NHL Central Scouting rankings, leading to him becoming the NHL's No. 7 overall pick in 2010. The 18-year-old Domi has traced a similar arc this spring while leading the London Knights into the OHL final, which begins Friday on their home ice at the Budweiser Gardens. The son of Toronto Maple Leafs folk hero Tie Domi has produced in every conceivable way through the first three rounds of the playoffs, piling up 10 goals and 25 points in 14 games.
Central Scouting ranked Domi 19th among North American skaters earlier this month, but other sources deem him to a possible top-10 pick. That's because on top of his skill set — a first-class first two steps and hands that are slicker than Canada's new $5 bill — Domi gets to the dirty areas like no one's business.
"Just sniffing around the net, being hungry to help your team out, that's something that is always in the back of my mind," the 5-foot-9, 193-pound Domi said recently. "Not giving up on plays, trying to make something out of a nothing play, is something I've been working on a lot this year with the coaching staff and my teammates. I take pride in being tight around the net.
"Dale's biggest philosophy is 'you can't be too pretty, especially in playoffs,' " Domi said, referring to Knights coach Dale Hunter. "Whoever goes there is going to score goals. He basically says, 'I'll leave that up to you.' I've taken that into consideration and really embraced it. Getting checked doesn't hurt too much if you score a goal."
Domi, who typically plays the wing with signed San Jose Sharks prospect Chris Tierney and Chicago Blackhawks seventh-rounder Alex Broadhurst, was London's catalyst during its Western Conference final win over the Plymouth Whalers. The Toronto native had five goals and 11 points across the series' final four games to lead London to a 4-1 series win. That built off his playoff performance in his yearling season, when he was one of London's best performers in the OHL final vs. Niagara and was productive while helping the Knights come within one goal of raising the Memorial Cup.
"He has high-end skill, some of the quickest hands in the league, he's going to be a tremendous hockey player," says teammate Bo Horvat, who is also a projected first-rounder in June, recently said of Domi. "He can make all those plays that you don't think someone can make and it's like all you have to do is finish it. Playing on the power play with him, it's good to have someone who thinks the game the way he does.
1. People have seen your offensive game — the passing, the finishing — but what is another specific component you've tried to show improvement in this season?
"Just that I'll do pretty much everything to help my team win — blocking shots, killing penalties. Being prepared to do anything and working hard every shift is what I've been trying to do all season."
2. Which teammate — and it could be more than one — do you credit for showing you the ropes in the OHL?
"Last year, off the ice, I hung around a lot with [Boston Bruins prospect] Jared Knight. [Nashville Predators farmhand] Austin Watson, he obviously won a Memorial Cup with Windsor [in 2009], so I picked his brain a lot and he helped me out a lot after practices."
3. Whom in the NHL do you watch closely? Surely you have to play Max Domi's game, but whom do you watch because he does things you want to add to your arsenal?
"A guy like Zach Parise or Martin St. Louis. They're not the biggest guys, but they can skate and make plays and put the puck in the back of the net."
4. Is there a benefit to being a smaller guy, who's built to low to the ground and can squeeze into tight spaces to fight for pucks?
"You are who you are. I've just accepted the fact that I am smaller than some other guys and use it to my advantage. I work on getting low to the ice and winning battles and coming out of the corners."
5. There has to be one Tie question ... apparently when your father was playing for the Peterborough Petes, he was suspended for a game in Sudbury, so he bought a 50/50 ticket and won?
"I haven't heard about that, but I'm going to have to ask him." (If you were sitting out a road game, would you try that?) "Now I'm going to have to."
(Editor's note: this is a composite of two interviews conducted at different points during the season.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to, email@example.com.