Name: Hnat Domenichelli
Birthdate: February 17, 1976
Acquired: Traded to Calgary from Hartford with Glen Featherstone and two picks (1997 draft: Kokorev, 1998 draft: Paul Manning) for Steve Chaisson and a 1997 pick (Francis Lessard.)
In the 1993-94 season while Domenichelli was playing for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, he managed to score 67 points. He was looked upon as a talented prospect but was very slender and lacked grit. Nonetheless, The Whalers selected him and were pleased when he scored 114 points in 72 games in the following season, leaping over a point per game in the competitive WHL. Again, the next season in ten less games he had 148 points and seemed to be a surefire offensive talent. Although Hnat did play with the talented Jarome Iginla in Kamloops, he must have had some talent to put up such incredible numbers in the WHL. As the 83rd overall selection in the 1994 draft, it seemed as though the Whalers had lucked out and discovered a wonderful player from a rather low draft pick. In the 1996-97 season Hnat made his debut in the NHL for the Hartford Whalers and scored 3 points in 13 games, he was later sent down to Springfield of the AHL where he made another debut, but this time an AHL one. He was in the middle of an impressive rookie campaign in the AHL (he had scored 24-24-48 in 39 games, over a point per game in his rookie AHL season) when late in the 1996-97 season he was traded from the Hartford Whalers to the Calgary Flames. The Flames, hoping to recapture the chemistry that Hnat and Jarome Iginla (whom they had previously acquired from Dallas) had shared had decided to acquire the offensive player. Hnat eventually closed out the 1996-97 season by appearing in 10 games with the Calgary Flames, scoring one goal and two assists and playing in one game for the Saint John Flames of the AHL, putting up two points. It was thought that after his hectic 96-97 season in which wherever he went, he scored, that he would be given a legitimate chance to play with the Flames the next year (1997-98). Be it with Iginla or with someone else, ultimately Hnat would have a regular shift on the Calgary Flames.
Although the 1997-98 season brought more time in the AHL for Domenichelli as he spent the majority of his time in Saint John accumulating 46 points in 48 games but he was called up to Calgary on two separate occasions. Upon his first call up, Hnat seemed nervous, knowing that this was a tremendous opportunity for himself and did not play well. This led to him getting insufficient playing time and a demotion to the farm team in Saint John, although Hnat took this all in stride and continued his strong play in Saint John. Eventually, this led to another call-up where contrary to his first appearance with the NHL club earlier that season, Hnat appeared poised and his play earned him a spot on the top line with Theo Fleury, he even saw limited power-play time with the Flames. He went on to amass 9 goals and 7 assists in 31 games with the Flames in the 1997-98 season and much was expected of him in the following year.
Hnat is once again leading the AHL Flames in scoring in the 1998-99 season (43 points in 49 games) and for the most part, his play has been impressive. He was called up by the Flames and scored a goal against Pittsburgh but was quickly returned to AHL after just four games. Hnat is not a huge player, but he is not waterbug either, he is 6’ feet and if he wishes to have another chance with the NHL Flames he will have to change his slender physique into a more muscular one. Presently, Hnat is much too easy to knock off the puck. I would parallel his play to Saku Koivu of the Montreal Canadians. Although Koivu has become stronger in recent years and has become more of a challenge to knock off the puck, when he first entered the NHL he was not a strong player yet still played in traffic. Koivu was often punished with hits and hence throughout his career has been plagued by injuries. This is much like the style of Domenichelli, who plays in traffic and loves to carry the puck but cannot really take care of it that well. This must cause some members of Flames’ management to worry if they move him up to the NHL that he will be injured more often than not, much like Koivu. Domenichelli’s skills do not make you notice him at a game; rather it is his anticipation that does. It seems that Hnat is always in the correct position to score a goal, not because he has lightning speed but rather because he has good hockey sense and knows where to be, the holes that have to be found to score goals. Once Hnat reaches those holes, he finds the back of the net with a good accurate shot, not overpowering but the location is what matters when talking about Hnat. He is also quite inventive around the net and possesses decent speed and agility.
Hnat can be a good scorer in the NHL if he bulks up, much like Saku Koivu has done. The main reason the Flames continue to shuffle him between the AHL and NHL is because of his build and inability to go into the corners and come out with the puck. This is a necessary skill in the NHL and most players will never be successful if they cannot accomplish this. The Flames sincerely hope that Hnat will increase his weight, by 10-15 pounds in the off-season and then and only then will he be able to take full advantage of his tremendous hockey sense and become a regular at the NHL level, finally. Although, Whitney and Falloon did not work out, perhaps Domenichelli and Iginla may ultimately become a fighting force on the Flames for years to come.
(As of Feb 25)
Year Team League GP G A Pts PIM
1997-98 Calgary NHL 31 9 7 16 6
1998-99 St. John AHL 48 33 13 46 24