London is hockey Hollywood

Max Domi carefully adjusts his London Knights cap after he put on a London Knights jersey as his...

Max Domi carefully adjusts his London Knights cap after he put on a London Knights jersey as his signing was announced Tuesday at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont. (MIKE HENSEN/QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:45 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - Max Domi's arrival in London isn't just about the Hunters adding a talented young star centre to the Knights lineup.

For the price of three second-round draft picks to Kingston, the Knights have made London and the John Labatt Centre a hockey Hollywood once again.

The OHL's biggest stage is must-see entertainment for the first time since John Tavares and Nazem Kadri left for the pros.

Consider the deep plotlines of NHL-related intrigue.

Domi's father Tie, the former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer, will be a fixture at games.

Former Leafs captain Rob Ramage is helping the team's defence.

Jarred Tinordi, a Montreal Canadiens first-rounder and son of hard-hitting NHL defender Mark, anchors the blue-line. Tampa Lightning GM Steve Yzerman's first-round pick, Knights forward Vladislav Namestnikov, is Slava Kozlov's nephew and grew up in the Detroit Red Wings' Stanley Cup dynasty.

"I can't wait to play here this year," Domi said with a wide grin as Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, a former Knights star, stood behind him. "It's one of the best teams in the OHL, the whole Canadian Hockey League for that matter."

The 16-year-old Max, more a skilled scorer than his famous fighting dad was, started out by thanking former Leafs great Doug Gilmour, the Kingston Frontenacs GM, for making this deal possible.

This is a kid who grew up around the Leafs dressing room. He worked out with Sidney Crosby for part of this summer.

"He's a machine," Domi said. "No one works out harder than Sidney does."

He hedged at the million dollar question -- when will Crosby be back in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup? But here's a teenager who has rubbed shoulders with the biggest names.

Domi has the bloodlines the Hunters covet in hockey as much as they do in horse racing, the other sport the family dabbles in.

"A kid might be wondering why are you eating spaghetti at 12 o'clock at night or why are you asleep in the middle of the afternoon, but these kids like Max understand," Knights head coach Dale Hunter said. "They know what their dads went through to play the game. They're not fazed.

"And Tie could make a play. He scored 20 goals in the NHL and that's not easy. He had to work at his game just like I did and a lot of us did. We're not all Marios."

Hunter said fans would warm up in a hurry to Max's tenacious, on-ice style.

"He's quick and he anticipates the play, but more importantly, he makes his teammates around him better," he said. "That's what the Corey Perrys, those kinds of players, do and that's what we need."

Last year, the Knights finished eighth in the OHL's Western Conference and their best player was Michael Houser, a goalie who never gets the credit he deserves.

Now they have one of the promising young teams in the Canadian Hockey League.

"We have the top two centremen from the (May) draft," Dale Hunter said.

That would be Domi, the eighth overall pick to Kingston, and Bo Horvat, the highest-scoring midget player in Ontario last year. The pair played on the same line last season with the Ontario select team at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax.

"We have the eighth and ninth picks in the draft on our team," GM Mark Hunter said. "When does that ever happen? Never. We saw a chance and if we didn't have a surplus of draft picks, we wouldn't have been able to do it.

"It's a big price but we felt Max was worth it. Dougie (Gilmour) was OK. He had to do what he thought was best to help his team and Max will be one of the central guys in our plans over the next several years."

Before he was a teen, Domi was diagnosed with diabetes. He has learned how to manage it while performing on the ice at a high level.

In London, he will live at the same billet home as Jared Knight, the Boston Bruins' prospect who discovered he had diabetes after testing his blood on old teammate Leigh Salters' suggestion.

"I'm excited to be living with Jared," Domi said. "He'll be a great role model for me and I know I'll learn a lot from him."

It'll be fascinating to watch his progress.

And that, of course, was part of the appeal right from the start.

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THE DEAL

The London Knights acquired F Max Domi from the Kingston Frontenacs for Erie's second-round pick in 2012 (Phil Varone trade), Guelph's second-round pick in 2012 (Daniel Erlich trade) and London's second-round pick in the 2015 OHL draft. The Frontenacs also get a compensatory firs-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2012 OHL draft.

E-mail ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca or follow RyanatLFPress on Twitter.


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