Alexa Mavrogianis – isportsweb.com
After the Arizona Coyotes ended their 2014-15 campaign 29th in the NHL, they hoped the bottom-two finish would enable them to draft a superstar as a consolation prize. When the Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery, the Coyotes’ draft position was pushed to third overall, which meant missing out on highly touted center prospects Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
But now, less than a year removed from a 24-50-8 record, the Coyotes are currently sitting in a playoff spot with a record of 22-18-5 thanks to the help of a different rookie. Max Domi, who was selected 12th overall by the Coyotes in 2013, is on track to be a Calder Trophy finalist.
Domi, son of former NHLer Tie Domi, is third on the Coyotes in points with 31, just two behind linemate Mikkel
Boedker and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and his 13 goals are good for second on the team. Domi’s play has contributed to the career season that Boedker is on pace for, as well as the Coyote’s offensive turnaround. The Coyotes sit eighth in the league with 2.73 goals per game, a dramatic improvement from last season’s 2.01 average.
The 20-year old left wing is not just impressing on the Coyotes, he’s making waves throughout the league. Domi’s 31 points in 45 games put him second among NHL rookies. That total leads Eichel and Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin by one. Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin, who spent parts of the last seven years in the KHL, is the lone player ahead with 45 points in 49 games.
Despite sitting 14 points behind Panarin, Domi’s season may very well be more impressive. Unlike Panarin, this is Domi’s first season playing professional hockey. While Panarin is a rookie by NHL standards, the 24-year old has over half a decade of experience in a professional league playing against men. Also unlike Panarin, Domi does not have the benefit of playing alongside the NHL’s leading scorer.
Of the top four rookie point getters, Domi receives the least amount of ice time and only Eichel has less offensive zone starts at 54%. Panarin plays remarkably easy minutes with 75.2% of his shifts starting in the offensive zone compared to Domi’s 57.6%.
Domi also has to face a struggle other NHL rookies do not. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 12, Domi’s transition to the pro-life has been different from the average player. But with the help of Orion, his diabetic alert dog who uses a keen sense of smell to keep Domi aware of his blood sugar levels, Domi has been able to to balance the disease with professional hockey.
Ever since his diagnosis, Domi has spent time speaking to families and children who also suffer from Type 1 in an effort to inspire and show that being a diabetic does not have to deter them from achieving their dreams. It certainly has not stopped Domi from achieving his, as he may be just as impressive off the ice as he is on it.