Breaking Down: Dominic Toninato – More Than Meets the Eye

The rookies we’ve looked at so far this summer have for the most part been cast in offensive roles, not so with Toninato. He had a productive and successful career in Duluth but the draw for the Avalanche was a young player that had defensive skills right out of the box. It was attacking the problem of developing depth players from a different angle. Instead of trying to teach offensively skilled players how to deal with life outside of the o-zone they went for a guy that would be fine outside the o-zone and see if the offense could be developed to a passable NHL level.

Most fans glance at the 2 assists in 37 games and groan but there’s an underlying story here. Believe it or not, he filled his role well despite struggling to accumulate points. The key for Dom going forward is overcoming a little luck and some usage issues to get to an acceptable level of production and there’s a good chance he will.

Before we get to the profile, we need to map out his season by location. Toninato had 2 callups, the second time for good and it went like this:

Season opening to November 15th in San Antonio
13 games – 3G/3A

November 18th to December 3rd in Colorado
8 games – 1A

December 5th to January 14th in San Antonio
17 games – 4G/2A

January 18th to the end of the season in Colorado (1 random AHL game in there)
29 games – 1A (9 games as healthy scratch)

So he really wasn’t scratched much, 5 of his scratches came at the end of the regular season and the other 4 were random. It probably doesn’t seem like it but he was more or less a regular in the lineup when he was around. His average game was 11 or 12 shifts, mainly at even strength, with an occasional PK shift and even a few PP shifts over the season. Average TOI was 7:54 per game with a high of 11:25 and a low of 4:21 vs Vegas near the end of the year


Moving on to some production and prevention numbers, there’s a little more on the positive side here so keep an open mind.

iCF/CF – 20.7%, 11th among forwards
ixG/xG – 21.2%, 14th among forwards

He was on the low end of offensive contribution on the ice for forwards, a problem that we all saw. By the eye test he did create some good chances here and there but more or less deferred to his linemates to create the offense. His job was mainly as a facilitator and puck retriever in the o-zone which isn’t exactly what you want from a center.

CF/60 – 50.6, ahead of only Bourque and Greer
GF/60 – 1.5, about the same place
On-ice Sh% – 6.03, ahead of only Wilson and Compher

The on-ice numbers show that it wasn’t just him that struggled when he was out there. This was the story for the 4th line all year and to a lesser extent the whole bottom 6. Whether this is a cause or an effect of the lines and usage is something I’ve wondered for the last 8 months or so. Clearly there was an issue in the bottom 6 and either the staff didn’t know how to fix it, didn’t want to fix it or flat out couldn’t fix it.

CA/60 – 53.99, 1st among forwards
GA/60 – 1.29, 1st among forwards
SCA/60 – 17.57, 1st among forwards
On-ice Sv% – .956, highest among forwards

Now we get to the positives. He was good or lucky depending on how you want to look at it, either way nothing bad happened when he was out there. His zone starts (which I don’t really care about but people always ask) were mid-pack so he wasn’t sheltered when possible really. Numbers like these are why the staff were happy to put him out there. If you’re not going to create offense then you better be able to suppress shots and not be on the ice when lots of of goals are scored against. Do no harm should be the goal of every 4th liner.

Toninato’s most common linemates by far were Gabe Bourque (149min) and Nail Yakupov (117min). After that there was a big drop to Comeau (47min) and Nieto (40min) then a bunch of guys like Compher, Kerf and Sven just under 40. His CF% in general was a pretty stout 48.47, good for 5th among forwards, and his goal rates per hour were 1.5 for and 1.29 against. Here’s how it worked out with other players individually:

Bourque – CF% 44.9, GF/60 1.21, GA/60 1.61
Yak – CF% 50.25, GF/60 1.03, GA/60 1.54
Comeau – CF% 47.42, GF/60 2.54, GA/60 1.27
Nieto – CF% 46.43, GF/60 2.93, GA/60 0.00

Since Bourque and Toninato played together for about 2/3rds of Dom’s total ice time it’s easy to pick up on the effects of playing them together. Away from Bourque, Toninato’s CF% was 49.47, a pretty fair improvement let’s say. Away from Toninato, Bourque’s CF% was 41.13 so you can see a bit of propping up going on here. Bourque’s a bit of a shot hog too so that can explain why Dom’s individual numbers might have suffered.

This chart from @IneffectiveMath is a good representation of Toninato’s effects:

Basically blue is with Toninato and red is without. His general effect is to make everything low-event. The only player he was a noticeable drag on was Andrighetto and as I said above he propped Bourque up bigtime.

It’s also easy to pick up on production going up quite a bit when lined up with the more skilled Nieto and Comeau. It’s a pretty small sample size but not insignificant. In general the 4th line center went out with Comeau/Nieto right after power plays and the numbers say this worked out pretty well for the Avs with these 3 together. I say this every week but the staff’s stubbornness with keeping Soderberg with Comeau and Nieto hurt both Carl and the bottom 6. If you want an instant solution to both depth scoring and better all around defensive play then breaking that line up would have done both. After researching this all summer I’m convinced this cost the Avs some points last year.


What we’ve got here in an almost half-season sample size of Dominic Toninato is a player that is already on the way to being a solid defensive forward and the questions are about whether his offensive production will get to the level it needs to be to stay in the NHL permanently. I like the idea since coaches hesitate to give playing time to youngsters that get smoked outside of the o-zone or look clueless without the puck. Dom’s earned a chance this season to show he can take that next step. The Avs stocked up on bottom 6 vets this Summer so unlike last year there aren’t any guaranteed spots for youngsters. It won’t be easy, but then again it shouldn’t be.

If you need a bigger Toninato fix, Rudo posted a season review last week you ought to like.


Thanks as always to Natural Stat Trick, Corsica and the NHL for statistics, Micah McCurdy for the viz and SeaMill for grinding out our derivative stats.


Scoring LW, punchy climber for the Ardennes classics, spirit guide

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