In most other years, London Knights forward Max Domi would probably garner more attention at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
The son of former tough guy Tie Domi is expected to be taken in the first round of next month’s NHL draft, but with the three top North American-based prospects all playing at the Credit Union Centre, the 2013 edition of Canadian Hockey League’s showcase event is far from normal.
That suits Domi and a host of other potential picks just fine.
NHL scouts have descended on the 10-day tournament as top prospects Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks, and Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, both of the Halifax Mooseheads, play their final games ahead of the draft.
Having the trio in one place means that other players expected to have their names called early on June 30 in Newark, N.J., can focus on the tournament.
“I know those guys pretty well and they’re great guys and awesome hockey players,” said Domi, who is ranked at No. 19 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. “We’re just worried about how the London Knights play and not really anything else to be honest. We focus on ourselves and the team and let the rest take care of itself.”
Knights teammate Bo Horvat, who is ranked 15th, says that although the draft is never completely out of his mind, the goal in Saskatoon is to win the CHL title.
“There’s always competition but I’ve played on teams with them before and we’re all good friends,” he said. “I don’t feel the pressure. You’ve just got to play your game and not worry about the draft too much and just focus on the team aspect.
“There’s definitely a lot of prospects here and a lot good hockey players looking to raise their stock.”
A player who has made one of the biggest jumps from the mid-season rankings to now is London defenceman Nikita Zadorov. The six-foot-five Russian scored the winner in the Knights’ 3-2 tournament-opening victory over the Saskatoon Blades and has moved up eight spots to No. 22 on the North American draft list.
Knights coach Dale Hunter says despite being overshadowed by Jones, MacKinnon and Drouin at the Memorial Cup, his players are worthy of the billing they’ve received from scouts.
“Max and Bo, you can see what they did for us. They’re young men, just like the Halifax boys and (Jones) from Portland. They both come to play,” Hunter said. “They’re all good players and that’s why they’re ranked so high in the draft and deservedly so.”
Halifax goalie Zachary Fucale, who is listed as the No. 1 netminder in North America and played with both MacKinnon and Drouin for the last two seasons, has witnessed the hype surrounding his teammates. He says the looming draft and playing with and against top talent doesn’t change his mindset.
“I just concentrate on helping the team,” he said. “We were all in this, us three together and I don’t think one of us was ahead of the other. We were just playing for the team.”
Portland forward Nicolas Petan says he enjoys being on the ice against the best junior hockey has to offer.
“It obviously elevates your game,” said Petan, who is ranked No. 33. “It definitely motivates me to play against the guys who are ranked really high.”
Domi has an extra edge in terms of preparing for the draft in the form of his famous father, who actually played in a Memorial Cup in Saskatoon as a member of the 1989 Peterborough Petes.
“He’s my dad so I talk to him quite a bit about hockey,” the younger Domi said. “He’s been through all of this. We joke around about that a little bit. He played 17 years in the NHL so I bounce questions off him all the time and he helps me out a lot.
“Having my dad in my back pocket is huge.”