As "Domi, Domi" chants rained down on Arizona Coyotes prospect Max Domi from all sides of Montreal's Bell Centre and Toronto's Air Canada Centre during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, one thing was abundantly clear -- this was no ordinary mid-first-round draft pick.
While Domi's five-goal, 10-point run to help Canada win the gold medal took him from quality prospect to national hero, his evolution began earlier in the year in London, Ontario.
Named London Knights' captain at the beginning of the season, Domi's role on the team has expanded both on and off the ice. Once simply an offensive dynamo, Domi has turned into an all-around player. He excels on the power play and penalty kill, while being one of few players trusted with ice time in the final minute of a game, up or down a goal.
The offense is still there too. Domi has 17 goals and 58 points in 27 games this season.
"It's amazing to see where his game has gone in the past six months," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said. "It really just reaffirms our decision to send him back early."
The evolution of Domi's game this season is the principal reason Maloney believes sending the 19-year-old back to the OHL, rather than starting the season in Arizona's top-9, was the correct decision.
"It's really his game without the puck as much as any scoring or making plays," Maloney said. "He's doing everything we expect. He's killing penalties -- he's the first one out on the penalty kill -- he's (making) last minute plays on the ice, all the things that he would never have seen here if he stuck around here at this young, young age."
Credit the Hunters (owner Mark and president and head coach Dale) for growing the 5-foot-10, 198-pound forward's game en route to his professional debut next season.
"They've had success, they've got a great model, they know what it takes to win and they know what type of players they need to win," Maloney said of the Hunters. "In Max's case, they've now expanded his role to be on some penalty killing and end of period (play), all those things you want him to be when he comes up.
"If he's going to be an impactful front-line player, you want to be able to put him out in defensive situations."
Domi put all those skills on display on an international stage with his prolific performance at this year's World Junior Championship, after not being invited last year.
"This is totally different. This is more of a dominant player right now," Maloney said. "The one thing with young junior players, they can flash for a little while and then they try the cute stuff. Max...something good is happening.
"Whether it's making a play, his puck pursuit -- he reminds me of Marty St. Louis right now, the way he's controlling the play with the puck on his stick. Then he's competitive -- he's just everything we hope he can bring here next year."
As the Coyotes take the long-term approach to rebuilding their squad into a perennial playoff contender, Domi figures to be a cornerstone in those plans.
Exciting? Check. Skillful? Check. All-around responsibility? Check. Domi can capture a paying audience and help win hockey games in the process.
"What he's showing us right now, (he's) somebody to get excited about," Maloney said.
Coyotes fans are as eager as can be awaiting Domi's arrival to the main club. And from the looks of it, the front office is as well.