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Top 25 Under 25 - #17 Dominic Toninato

Another new face in the Top 25 Under 25 takes on a brand-new challenge this season.

Sliiiiiiick jerseys, Fargo.
Sliiiiiiick jerseys, Fargo.
The challenge of the Top 25 Under 25 project is trying to accurately gauge success across different ages, different playing situations, and different leagues. Not all leagues are created equal in the world of hockey development. When talking about some players, like earlier in the countdown when we featured two players that played in Sweden, we have a pretty brief outline of that players worth.

Yet even in our own countries there is just so much hockey at so many different levels it is a challenge to keep it all straight.

Dominic Toninato was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the 5th round of the 2012 Draft, having played for Duluth East High School in his hometown of Duluth, MN. I have never watched any MN high school hockey, so I know little about the quality of the league, other than it is widely considered one of the strongest such leagues in the US. Toninato obliterated it, scoring over 2 points a game for Duluth East as both a 17 year old junior and 18 year old sophomore.

Last season, Toninato moved to the Fargo Force, a USHL team based in Fargo, ND. I have never watched any USHL hockey, so I know little about the quality of the league, other than it is now considered the best junior hockey league based in the US, and has become a middleman of sorts between high school/midget hockey and the NCAA for most American prospects. Toninato had a very fine season, scoring over a point a game (70 points in 64 games) and helping lead Fargo to a league championship.

This year, Toninato again faces the challenge of a step up in competition and a new team, heading back to Duluth to join the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (where one of his teammates will be fellow Leaf prospect Tony Cameranesi). I have not watched too much NCAA hockey, but I know that the quality of this league is generally quite good, in many cases similar to a low-level professional league (based on the quality of play and the ages of the players). As a freshman, Toninato is probably not going to be expected to be a major contributor, but if he can continue to score at the impressive clip he has managed so far in his young career, Toninato could become a successful late-round find for the Leafs scouting staff.

The success Toninato has registered so far sees him push up 13 spots in our countdown, landing at #17.

clrkaitken birky SteveBurtch Chemmy SkinnyFish BowerPower JP Nikota PPP 67Sound Rank
22 20 17 21 18 18 14 16 24 17

EDITION 2 - 30/41

Toninato saw big gains on a number of ballots, moving up nine spots for SkinnyFish and I, moving up ten spots for birky and PPP, and JP Nikota moved him from not being ranked last year to in the Top 15 this time around. The newcomers all ranked him within the top 25, and Chemmy and 67 Sound were the only people to not put him in their Top 20.

Toninato's total of 109 points just edges out Sparks for #17, leaving him five points behind #16 on our list.

Was better than a point-per game in the USHL which has, traditionally at least, been nowhere near the talent level of the CHL, but that is changing. You never know
JP Nikota

Hard to say where to put him right now since I don’t know what the USHL really is worth
67 Sound

As you can see we struggled with how to value Toninato's accomplishments in the USHL. However, a big factor in our rankings is envisioning that player's future role in the NHL (should they make it), and for Toninato, that likely means a role as a secondary offensive option, a top 9 forward. That gives him an edge over other prospects that we seem to think have a ceiling of a role player that would be used in an "energy" type role.