Toronto Maple Leafsâ€™ prospect, Chris Didomenico (or Dido for short) is set to make his World Junior Hockey Championship debut this Friday as the team prepares for its first pre-tournament exhibition match against Team Sweden.
A poll was conducted before the start of the QMJHL season asking coaches to give their opinion on which teams and players would win the league awards at the end of the season. Chris Dicomenico was overwhelmingly voted to win â€œTop Forwardâ€ and unanimously voted for â€œLeague MVPâ€. According to one coach, â€œHe’s always dangerous. Sometimes you don’t see him in a game and he has three points. I think he has to improve his skating but he’s dangerous with the puck and without the puck he’s always in a good place. He can make good passes and score goals; he’s always there at the right time and that’s a great quality.â€
Chris was overlooked by the entire OHL league for draft eligibility until he joined the Saint John Sea Dogs as a walk on. In his first season, he notched 25 goals and 70 points. His second season showed no signs of a sophomore jinx as he increased his goal production to 39 with 95 points, and letâ€™s not forget his 103 penalty minutes. At 6â€™1â€ and 170 lbs, he may have a smaller frame, but heâ€™s feisty as hell.
But history continued to repeat itself when it came time for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Chris was overlooked in 5 rounds, despite coming off a 95 point season, and the Maple Leafs got arguably the steal of the draft as they selected the young Canadian in round 6, 142nd overall. Two years later, he is expected to start his World Junior career off on the right wing for John Tavares.
Still, many people begin to flip through prospect magazines when they hear his name, trying to figure out what he can do for team Canada. Well, another QMJHL coachâ€™s opinion compares him to Luc Robitaille. â€œHe’s not afraid to get in traffic to score some goals and will stand in front of the net to get some rebounds. He’s just very gifted offensively. He’s not necessarily a great skater but he’s a smart hockey player. He’s always finding a way to score goals and score big goals at the right time. He’s a very dangerous forward.â€
Itâ€™s been a while since Toronto fans have been able to watch a prospect run his course through the World Junior Hockey Championship. Not since 2001 and 2002 have they seen a Canadian prospect play when Matt Stajan, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo and Brendan Bell all wore the red and white, and in 2006 when Justin Pogge stole the show; but as many fans are excited to see Dido make his mark, another slightly unrecognizable prospect is ready to be an impact at the Worlds as well.
His name is Jimmy Hayes. Drafted in the 2nd round at the 2008 Entry Draft, the Boston College forward stands at 6â€™5â€ and 210 lbs and is considered your typical power forward. Heâ€™s also recognized as a â€œbig guy with speed and agilityâ€. You may want to read that again. 6â€™5â€ and the kid can skate as fast as former U.S. tryout teammate Peter Mueller. â€œHe is a fast skater, he has very big and long strides, he gets around very well and has very good hands for a big man,” observed the head coach of the 1994 U.S. Olympic team in Lillehammer Tim Taylor. “He is a big, strong, powerful forward with a good degree of skills. I think that he is still growing.â€
Itâ€™s an exciting time for all hockey fans, as the World Juniors tend to receive more viewers than the televised games in the States, even playoff games; however, this year, itâ€™s an exciting time for Leaf fans. Itâ€™s about time.
Micheal A. Aldred