TORONTO-When Jerry D’Amigo left Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to play the 2010/11 season with the Toronto Marlies, the expectation was that he was ready to play professional hockey.
The Binghamton, NY, native averaged a point-per-game in college and was coming off a 2010 Junior World Championship tournament where he tied current Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall for third in tournament scoring with 12 points in seven games.
But just five goals and 15 points through the first 43 games of his rookie season with Toronto, and a 2011 Junior World Championship that saw his scoring decrease drastically, raised some concern and eventually led to him being loaned to the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League in February of 2011.
“We wanted him to enjoy and develop with some more offensive prowess,” said Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. “We thought it was better for him to keep scoring and keep getting points and that was in junior.”
With one year of college hockey on his resume, the then 19-year-old D’Amigo struggled through his rookie season in Toronto; however once he was in the OHL his scoring touch re-emerged. He put up 12 goals and 28 points in 21 games for Kitchener and embraced the opportunity to play significant minutes despite the fact that he had to leave pride behind and play in unfamiliar territory.
“Coming out of college I expected to be pro,” said D’Amigo. “At first I was skeptical of playing junior. I was a college boy and that was my roots so it was hard to go to Kitchener, but it was great. The fans were great, the coaches were great and it was fun. Looking at it from afar you say ‘I don’t wanna do it’ but now I can say I really enjoyed it.”
A year later, the 5’11” 213-pound D’Amigo is back with the Marlies and has shown enough improvement to not only stick out a full season as a pro, but play top six minutes as well.
“This year I’ve really changed around my habits on and off the ice,” said D’Amigo. The coaches are noticing it and they’re telling me to keep on doing it.”
In 54 games, the left-winger has 12 goals and 32 points and Eakins believes the sophomores success comes from the ability to learn and adapt.
“This year he’s come back and I think the biggest thing he’s done is changed his habits,” said Eakins. “He’s one of the first ones to the rink, he’s on the bike more, he’s in the weight room a lot more and that wasn’t the case last year. I think he got into the (mentality) ‘hey, pro hockey, living on my own and everything’s great’ and forgot about the task at hand.”
Not only has the 2009 sixth-round draft selection picked up his offensive game, he’s comprehending what it takes to be successful within the Leafs organization.
“I’ve always played defense but I never really focused on it enough,” said D’Amigo. “This year I’m focusing on it more because if I get a chance at the next level I need to be able to be a two-way player. You can’t just rely on your offensive ability.”
Despite last season’s regression, it seems that D’Amigo is back on the right path of development.
He’s producing points, earning time on both sides of special teams and, most importantly, understanding what it takes to succeed at the pro level.