TORONTO - Around Minnesota’s Duluth East High School, Wednesday’s second biggest hockey bulletin was the Wild’s signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
In the northern reaches of the State of Hockey, they were likely more pumped that local product Dominic Toninato scored in his second strong day at the Maple Leafs’ prospects camp. Toninato was too immersed in the scrimmage game and the daily seminars to follow the Wild’s double UFA coup, but it might be one day he goes home to play them as a member of the Leafs.
It hasn’t been two weeks since the Leafs plucked the left-shooting centre 126th overall at the draft in Pittsburgh. Knowing he’s headed for the respected USHL team Fargo, N.D., and then in a year or so to college at Minnesota-Duluth, he’s considered a safe long-range bet. Wednesday’s 6-1 win for his White team over the Blues at the MCC featured a goal, an assist on one of Jamie Devane’s markers and a breakaway chance stopped by Spanish goalie Ander Arcaine.
“He had a good day,” agreed Jim Hughes, the Leafs’ director of player development. “Brian Burke (watching with the management team from his private balcony) was impressed with him. He looks like a seasoned kid for someone coming from a small town in Minnesota. It was encouraging, it looks like he has good hockey sense.”
Toninato played for the state all-star team in addition to 27 goals and 61 points in 25 games his last year with Duluth East.
“Duluth East has a rich program, a lot of history behind it,” Toninato said. “We’ve made three trips to the state tournament (a big deal in Minny if you didn’t know).”
Not quite old enough for college, Toninato will be getting plenty of practice during the week with Fargo, with exhibition games on the weekend. It’s similar to the NCAA schedule he’ll eventually adopt. Toninato is finding it a lot harder to score at this camp, where some players are making their third appearance. Thus, he took Burke’s praise in stride.
“I’m the new guy, out here trying to improve myself, just like everybody else. I’m getting into game speed, just taking the experience in and figuring what I have to work on. Coming up here is such a great experience.
“Next year it’s Fargo, then to Duluth and see where that takes me. Hopefully in a couple of years I’ll be back here.”
If his name sounds very un-Scandinavian for that part of the U.S., Toninato is just as mystified.
“I’m Italian on both sides. I don’t know the full history, but my Mom and Dad both grew up in Minnesota.”
Thursday will be the last day of camp, during which 41 players have been busy with various seminars on nutrition, condition and social media.
“There is no doubt the players watch each other closely,” Hughes said. “There might be four or five from here that eventually make the NHL, hopefully it’s six or seven. There are all kinds of shapes and sizes competing and they all want to get to the same place.
“So they can’t be naive to think they’ll all wind up in the promised land. It doesn’t work that way. We constantly remind them of that.”