When Columbus made a trade at the start of free agency to acquire Jerry D'Amigo from the Maple Leafs in exchange for RFA rental Matt Frattin, most fans probably didn't register it as a major change. In essence, the team exchanged one pending RFA forward for another, with the side possibility of a conditional 7th round pick in there as well.
That impression began to change when the team inked him to a new one year, two way deal a few weeks later, and D'Amigo made it clear in interviews that he intends to earn a spot in camp.
A product of the US National Development team and former Rookie of the Year award winner in the ECAC during his brief stint at RPI, D'Amigo made the leap to pro hockey in the 2010-2011 season and hasn't looked back. He's regarded by a lot of scouts as a speedy winger with potential top six upside - and at 23, he's a great fit for the speed, skill, and vitality that has come to characterize this team over the last two seasons.
Born: Binghamton, NY
Height: 5' 11"
Drafted: 2009 (6th round, 158th overall by Toronto)
D'Amigo is an interesting player right now, who shows signs of being a bit of a "tweener" at this point in his development. One the one hand, he struggled to make a big impact in his appearances at the NHL level last year in Toronto, though a lot of Leafs fans still regarded him as a top ten prospect in their system. He's been a force in the AHL, and currently holds the Marlies' playoff scoring record after an explosive performance in last season's Calder Cup run.
Right now, D'Amigo is looking at a LW depth chart that includes Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno, and Matt Calvert. It's possible he might be able to get a look on the right side - his competition there includes newly signed Brian Gibbons, Corey Tropp, and Jared Boll, but there's still a lot of established NHL forwards on this club right now, to say nothing of rising young talent like Alexander Wennberg and Kerby Rychel. (Though to be fair to D'Amigo, he did swap from LW to RW when he was called up, and seemed comfortable there.)
If he can make it through that gauntlet to the opening night roster, he's shown that he's a player you can put in almost any situation, and has demonstrated an impressive scoring touch. If he can translate those skills into the NHL, that's a very good asset to have, and that versatility may give him an edge in earning a spot, though it's likely to require some very hard work.
At the very worst case, D'amigo is likely to be a great top six addition to the Falcons, and almost certainly be one of the players the team when they need to bring someone up due to injury or illness. That kind of depth is a very good problem for the organization to have, and will hopefully pay some big dividends next season.