After an eventful two years at the college and Olympic levels, Ryan Donato is finally getting the call-up to the pros. And based on comments by Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney, the talented young forward could make his NHL debut in his first game available.
The Bruins officially announced on Sunday that they’ve signed Donato to a two-year entry-level contract and that he will be available to play for the NHL club against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden. His production for both Harvard and Team USA has shown that the 21-year-old has a chance to easily out-perform his draft status as the 56th overall pick in 2014.
Originally projected as a solid two-way center at the NHL level, Donato emerged as a dynamic goal-scoring threat in his final year at Harvard and with Team USA in the 2018 Winter Olympics. He led Harvard with 26 goals, the fourth-highest total in the country, and dominated offensively for Team USA in the Olympics with a team-leading five goals in five games.
What To Expect
Sweeney made it clear that the Bruins aren’t thrusting Donato right into a major role on the team. A severe rash of injuries has necessitated the forward’s call-up to the NHL, where he will be in the mix with veterans Tommy Wingels and Brian Gionta but may not see a regular role. However, the B’s are burning the first year of a two-year ELC for Donato with this move, so the kid will certainly get a fair chance to stick in the NHL this season.
Donato, who turns 22 on April 9, may project as a winger long-term. But he has shown the kind of two-way ability that could make him a reliable centerman despite lacking ideal size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds).
But what you’ll notice immediately about Donato is his tremendous skill when he has the puck on his stick. He makes up for a lack of high-end speed with great vision, awareness, and hands. He also possesses a lethal shot with a quick release.
Donato’s skill set makes him harder to contain the closer he gets to the net. He’s particularly adept at using his creativity to find open space around the goal, which he showed repeatedly for Harvard and Team USA this past season. He’s shown an uncanny ability to slip through defenders even when they seem well-positioned.
Ryan Donato Highlights
Bruins prospect Ryan Donato with a great individual goal in the Beanpot final pic.twitter.com/6OCUOudwEl— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) February 14, 2017
Donato signed a two-year entry-level contract with the #NHLBruins and will be eligible to do stuff like this in tomorrow night's game vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden. Hooray Ryan Donato!pic.twitter.com/FS75lwQKFz— Josh Q. Public (@joshqpublic) March 18, 2018
Donato’s skills may actually make him a good fit for David Krejci’s left wing in the absence of Jake DeBrusk. But Sweeney indicated on Sunday that he intends for Donato to “get immersed and get a taste” of NHL action, rather than depend on him in a meaningful way. So it would be a bit of a surprise if he immediately took a top-six role; it’s more likely he’s the third-line left wing on Monday, perhaps with Tommy Wingels and Brian Gionta.
But still, Sweeney is obviously optimistic that Donato can give the B’s something right away as a pro.
“He’s a kid that’s got a confidence about himself, a talent level, and he’s got some details he’s gonna have to work on – all young players do,” said Sweeney. “But he’s a player that has hard skill. We’re looking forward to having him.”
Hopefully for the Bruins’ sake, they get something close to the scoring prowess that Donato has shown in the past year as they head down the stretch of the regular season.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.