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Ryan Donato’s first week in the big leagues

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I think we can agree that he’s had a decent go of things. Let’s take a closer look.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Winnipeg Jets
Donato has stepped into the Bruins lineup with relative ease.
James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Harvard University forward Ryan Donato has signed with and debuted for the Boston Bruins. His first game was on Monday, March 19 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and since then, we’ve had a decent look at how his game slots in to an NHL roster. So, how did this glance go?

First Game: 1G-2A-3PTS

A strong debut, Donato was hard on the puck and was not too badly out of position to help out on defense most of the time. There were a few plays where he wasn’t as strong on the puck as one might like, but the kid will learn, and as long as he produces like this, he’ll be juuuust fine.

Donato’s first goal was a BEAUTY. Tough angle on a give-and-go zone entry with Torey Krug.

He also picked up assists on Riley Nash’s goal, here:

And, David Krejci’s goal on a slick pass, here:

Second Game: 1G-0A-1PT; 4PTS Total

Donato did not let his guard down, collecting and firing a loose puck past St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen - scoring his second goal in as many games.

3rd & 4th Games - No Points, Yes Experience

While Ryan didn’t add any additional points in these two games against the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild, he absolutely learned some lessons in having his ice time reduced by coach Bruce Cassidy. As the Bruins were having some trouble gaining the zone, Donato had fewer chances to start from a faceoff; since his line was deployed more often in the offensive zone, it’s not a stretch to imagine that his ice time could have suffered solely because of it. A bit of jitters showed as well as some fatigue in playing the toughest hockey of his life while continuing to study for classes at Harvard.

Fifth Game: 1G-0A-1PT, 5PTS Total

Deke. Goal. The B’s would go on to lose the game in the shootout, but Donato helped them steal a point.

How’d he do overall?

Donato has filled in admirably on the second line in the absence of David Krejci’s two mainstay wingers over the last two months, in Jake DeBrusk and trade deadline acquisition Rick Nash. It’s obvious that Krejci has chemistry with DeBrusk, having played the majority of the season with him, and Ricky fits in well as a complement to DeBrusk’s quick game and Krejci’s cerebral one. With both wingers on the shelf, Donato was invited to fill part of this gap, taking full advantage of his first NHL experience. One should assume that he’ll slide down the depth chart as one or both of DeBrusk and Rick Nash return from injury, and if not, it’ll be because he has earned the right to stay at Krejci’s side.

Through his first week, Donato has been a bit sheltered on zone starts on Krejci’s line, more of a sign of the entire line’s utilization (with Donato on one side and Heinen on the other, defensive zone starts are not high on the priority list). If his production were the result of those advantageous starts, we might be a little cooler on his debut. Instead, his three goals have come from a clean zone entry and tough-angle shot, a somewhat-lucky-but-heads-up-play, and a forced turnover by a teammate and a nasty deke to a backhand snipe. Donato has the skill to produce in the big leagues, and now it’s just a matter of time before we know if he has the drive to develop the rest of his game.

How’d he do? Donato do pretty good. A point-per-game player in his first week, and SCoC Three Stars honors. More on that later today.