Tyler Toffoli, like most young hockey players, likes to get away from the game sometimes. And when he needs a break, the Ottawa 67s center likes to relax with a good book.
"I like to read a book here and there," Toffoli told NHL.com. His book of choice this season? Well, it's not quite something you'd expect a top 2010 Entry Draft prospect to enjoy.
"This year I read a book called 'Twilight,'" he said sheepishly.
The "Twilight" series of books is big with pre-teen girls -- not so much with 18-year-old hockey players. So when the holiday season came around, Toffoli's teammates found the perfect gift for him.
"My Christmas present was a nice little 'Twilight' poster," Toffoli said. "It was fun, a lot of laughs. But what can you say? I like the book."
Toffoli wouldn't say whether it was a poster of Bella, Edward, Jacob or any other character, but like those young stars, Toffoli has some star power of his own. The 6-foot, 178-pound center had 37 goals and 79 points in 65 games, and followed that with 7 goals and 13 points in 12 playoff games as Ottawa advanced the second round of the OHL playoffs.
"He has a great shot," Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting's OHL scout, told NHL.com. "He sets up off the left post on the power play and gets off one-timers. He sees the ice very well and has very good play-making ability. … Tyler has a good enough skill-set to be able to be a top-two-line guy in the NHL."
"I like his skill level," added an Eastern Conference talent evaluator. "He's got good hands, he's got good offensive instincts. He's a very good offensive-zone player right now. He can finish, he's got a good shot, and he goes to the net. He does score some fancy goals, but he also scores some dirty goals, which I like to see in a forward."
Besides the goals, Toffoli also showed he could involve teammates, as he raised his assist total from 29 last season to 42 in 2009-10.
"I think I have good puck-possession skills," Toffoli said. "I'm good with the puck. I'm a tough guy who's hard to knock off the puck and I have good vision. I like to see guys that some other players can't see when they have the puck."
Toffoli certainly did that enough during the season to warrant a move up Central Scouting's ranking of North American skaters from No. 22 in the midterm release in January to No. 16 in April's final rankings.
Toffoli's season got a jumpstart at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in August. Playing on a line with fellow top prospects John McFarland and Tyler Seguin, Toffoli finished second on the team with 5 assists and 8 points in four games.
"Playing on a line with Johnny and Seguin, they're both great players with great speed," Toffoli said. "I really complemented them with my good vision and I saw them really well."
Toffoli also wasn't afraid to get physical. He raised his penalty minute total from 16 to 54 this season -- something else he said he learned at the Hlinka.
"It's more about puck possession (on the bigger rinks)," he said. "You have to move the puck, a lot of forechecking, being hard on their defenseman. If you dump the puck in the corner, they want to get the puck quickly and move it back up. If you forecheck hard they're going to get scared and hopefully give up a few passes up the middle to the other team. That's where we really did well."
While Toffoli did a lot of good things this season and has a strong future, he's far from a finished product. Edwards would like to see him put on a little more muscle mass to continue to play the same way in the pro ranks that he plays in the OHL. Other scouts questioned his work ethic and consistency.
"I think he's got to work on his skating," the East scout told NHL.com. "I think he's a good skater, he just gets lazy at times and glides too much. But when he strides out he's a good-looking skater. I just think strength and speed he has to work on, like most young guys."
Despite that criticism, it's likely that Toffoli hears his name early on the first day of the draft.
"Certainly the offensive skill and offensive instincts are there," the Eastern team's scout said. "For our organization there was a question on skating and I think that we really concentrated on that, and the more we went back, we felt we'd answered that question that he was a good enough skater and a better skater and well good enough to be an NHL player with his skating."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com