One day after becoming an NHL free agent, Minnesota Duluth outgoing senior forward Dominic Toninato signed with the Colorado Avalanche.
Toninato was a fifth round draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2012 NHL Draft, but the Maple Leafs opted not to sign Toninato this summer, allowing him to become an NHL free agent on August 15th.
Toninato was one of the top two-way centerman in the NCHC over the course of his career in Duluth, scoring at least 15 goals in each of his last three seasons. The Maple Leafs offered an NHL contract to Toninato last summer, but Toninato opted to return to his hometown of Duluth for his senior season, captaining the Bulldogs to an appearance in the NCAA championship game. With the Maple Leafs near the 50-contract maximum this summer, they were unable to sign Toninato.
We ranked Toninato as the 48th-best NHL prospect in the NCAA last season.
Toninato opted to return to Minnesota Duluth for his senior season to serve as captain of his hometown team, and that has proven to be a wise decision. Toninato is the top line center on the best team in the country, and capable of contributing on both the power play and penalty kill.
Toninato is a big, physical center, with the puck-handling ability to be effective on the cycle and make plays in front of the net. The biggest improvement he’s made as a senior is improving his discipline and cutting down on the number of silly penalties that he takes.
He should slot in as a terrific option as a big third or fourth line center at the NHL level.
Signing with Colorado potentially offers Toninato a faster path to the NHL, given the Avalanche’s struggles of late. He likely doesn’t project as a big contributor, but should be capable of playing a role in Colorado’s rebuild.