A budding Leafs scorer

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Could the offence-starved Maple Leafs have a budding scoring star in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League?

It might take a couple of years to know for sure, but Chris DiDomenico has given the club's scouting department another name to offer fans desperate for signs of life in the system. First came 2006's top pick Jiri Tlusty being thrust into a full-time NHL role, then Justin Pogge grabbed the goaltending reins with the AHL Marlies and put himself in position to challenge next season. In the past few weeks, defenceman Anton Stralman and forward Robbie Earl became the first Leafs from the 2004 and 05 drafts respectively to see NHL action.

Now, it's the dark horse DiDomenico, who was a point off the QMJHL scoring lead before last night, with 77 for the Saint John Sea Dogs. Picked 164th overall in last June's NHL draft, the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder has already passed his 06-07 total of 75 points.

DiDomenico is neither French-speaking nor a Maritimer, hailing from the big Italian community north of Toronto in Woodbridge.

DREAM COME TRUE

"My Dad's a Montreal fan, but getting picked by the Leafs was a dream come true," he said. "I hadn't gone to the draft, but Dave Morrison (the Leafs' amateur scouting boss) called me with the news. Dave and (assistant GM) Mike Penny have been down to see me a couple of times. Hopefully, I can keep producing."

Morrison says the slim-built centre knows he has to put some beef on, but has shown the commitment to improve in all areas.

"He's playing for a young team, with a good coaching staff that's only been in the league a couple of years and looks to him as a leader," Morrison said. "He was overlooked (in the OHL), but that can happen, especially in Ontario with so many players. The bottom line is we don't care where they come from if they can help us down the road."

SMALL IDOLS

DiDomenico knows he'll have to learn to play in traffic against bigger men if he hopes to move up the ladder.

"Pavel Bure and Dougie Gilmour were two of my favourite players growing up and you have to look at what a smaller guy such as Martin St. Louis has accomplished," DiDomenico said. "It's helped that the NHL has opened up play and that this league is a playmaker's league and not as full of tough guys as it used to be.

"I think about what's going on with the Leafs these days, but you can only do so much. Right now, I'm off to a good start and I'm thinking about my team's play."


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