Morning Skate: Donato's stock rising with each Olympic victory

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Morning Skate: Donato's stock rising with each Olympic victory

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while Team USA continues its uphill journey toward an Olympic medal.

*Ryan Donato potted a couple more goals in a decisive win for Team USA over Slovakia in elimination play and has been one of the top American hockey players at the PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea. Donato showed a little bit of everything in the performance with a sniper shot off a loose puck, another goal off the rush and he played through a nasty hit up high that appeared to bloody his nose. It’s no exaggeration at this point to say that Team USA goes as Donato goes after he’s secured two-goal performances in each of their victories.

Even better, Donato did it after a surprise visit from his old man, former Bruins player and current Harvard coach Ted Donato, after it was up in the air whether he’d be able to get away to South Korea to watch his son play. From a Bruins perspective, it’s all good things watching Donato score and lead the Americans on a large, global stage while his prospect profile grows with each play that he makes. It’s clear he’s going to sign with the Bruins and go pro shortly after the Olympics, with the only question being whether it makes a quick detour back to Harvard to finish up his college season prior to signing with the Black and Gold.

What’s less clear is the immediate future for Donato, 21. He continues to show high hockey IQ and a scorer’s toughness that’s allowed him to basically be a goal-per-game performer for the Crimson this season. Those will serve him well in the pros. But it would be unrealistic to think that Donato can jump right in and play for the Bruins at this late point in the season. It’s far more likely that he instead spends some development time in Providence after finally inking his entry-level deal.

The Bruins may have to burn off the first year of the entry-level deal when they sign Donato as has become customary with many of the college prospects, but it would be in his best interest to gain experience in Providence rather than sitting and watching as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson did last season. That experience has done him little good as he’s spent this season in Providence working up to being ready for his shot in the NHL.

What Donato could do for this year’s Bruins team is something else, however. His mere presence as a prospect about to join the pro ranks would allow the Bruins to part with one of their young players on the wing in a deadline deal trade. Anders Bjork would be the NHL-ready prospect most likely to move if the B’s had to give up one of their best and brightest in a big deadline move.

Bjork has speed and skill in large amounts and showed it in flashes when he was in Boston earlier this season, but the Bruins are dealing with a massive surplus of skilled wingers and left-shot defensemen in their prospect ranks right now. You can’t play them all in the NHL and Donato’s presence could and should allow Don Sweeney to deal one of them away ahead of Monday afternoon’s deadline.   

*Petr Mrazek is officially now in the playoff chase and also the newest goalie hope in Philly after getting traded to the Flyers from the Red Wings.

*Mat Barzal has overcome any bitterness about his previous experiences in pro hockey to become a Calder Trophy favorite with the Islanders.

*Interesting look at a typical practice with the struggling Montreal Canadiens from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu, who sees meaning in the mundane daily ritual.

*Larry Brooks seems to be dreaming of a lottery pick for the New York Rangers, who have not had one at the very top in a long, long time.

*Women’s Olympic Hockey will be expanding from eight to 10 teams for the next Winter Games, which is great news.

*For something completely different: Kurt Cobain would have been 51 today. Wow, that makes me feel wicked old.


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Ryan Donato starring for Team USA; is role on Bruins next?

Ryan Donato starring for Team USA; is role on Bruins next?

It would be easy to see Bruins prospect Ryan Donato as some kind of trade deadline secret weapon for the NHL club after watching his breakout two-goal effort against Slovakia in the Winter Olympics. Donato was the sole source of offense for Team USA in their 2-1 win over Slovakia on Thursday at the PyeongChang Games, and is expected to be one of the top players for a rag tag roster comprising college players, AHL veterans and a couple of NHL guys in Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski at the end of their respective pro hockey career roads. 

The first goal was a wrist shot sniped from the high slot after a clever, skilled play by fellow collegiate player Troy Terry to set him in the shooting area, and the game-winner was just pure skill and dangle curling to the net through defenders before beating the goalie down low. It’s more of what people around Harvard have seen out of a dominant Donato this season as he scored a whopping 21 goals in 23 games for the Harvard Crimson before leaving for South Korea. 

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Certainly it would appear that no matter what happens the Bruins crushed their 2014 Draft, the first one run by current Edmonton Oilers assistant GM Keith Gretzky, with David Pastrnak, Donato, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork as their first four picks. There’s also plenty of speculation that the 21-year-old Donato is going to sign with the Bruins after the Olympics, with the only thing in question whether or not he’s going to finish out the season at Harvard University before going pro. 

That situation probably has many old school Bruins fans thinking back to Bobby Joyce and Craig Janney jumping straight from college to the NHL to make an impact on Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988. But this isn’t 1988, and this Bruins team isn’t the veteran-laden group in need of a youth injection that iteration of the B’s hockey club was 30 years ago.

The one thing the Bruins really don’t need any more of: Inexperience and youth on the wing where the Bruins already have Jake DeBrusk and the aforementioned Heinen in key top-9 roles. They have been a giant part of Boston’s success and are enjoying great success as first year players, but the Bruins also need to vary things up a little at some point. 

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With Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Ryan Spooner and Heinen as five of their top six wingers, they are skilled and fast to be sure with plenty of offense getting generated. But they’re also very small and not particularly strong at the point of attack outside of 33-year-old David Backes, and could really use a bigger, stronger veteran forward with some scoring touch if they were to upgrade up front. 

This is why the Bruins are closely watching players like Rick Nash, Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner among others because they fit the exact need at the NHL level when considering a current group that has Boston competing for the President’s Trophy. 

This isn’t something Donato can be for the Black and Gold no matter how well he plays in the Olympics, and the simple truth is the talented 21-year-old is probably going to need the same AHL development that fellow NCAA guys in Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Bjork all required.

Expecting Donato to be able to jump from college to the NHL and make a big impact a la Charlie McAvoy last spring simply isn’t realistic, and that’s not certainly not something the Bruins are banking on headed into the Feb. 26 trade deadline. It should be good enough that the 6-foot-1, 181-pound Donato looks like another legit forward prospect for the Bruins, and could perhaps make it a little bit easier to part with a talented young forward like Bjork as a trade chip if the right deal comes along in the next couple of weeks. 

For now everybody should just enjoy the kid from Scituate, and son of longtime Bruins forward Ted Donato, as he does everybody proud wearing the Red, White and Blue in South Korea, and further cements himself as a future NHL prospect that will someday fit in well with the Youth Movement transpiring on Causeway Street.

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Morning Skate: BU's Greenway makes history for Team USA

Morning Skate: BU's Greenway makes history for Team USA

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready for a whole barrage of Olympics coverage from South Korea after Friday night’s opening ceremonies.  

*Great piece by colleague Kwani Lunis on BU forward Jordan Greenway breaking the color barrier as the first African-American to play for Team USA men's hockey at the Winter Olympics.

*Just when you thought you might have read every last story documenting the Vegas Golden Knights unlikely success story, here comes another one.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz has 10 observations from around the San Jose Sharks including the even-strength offense being ice cold.

*Former Maple Leafs forward Dave “Tiger” Williams is in trouble as he faces charges of sexual assault after a military trip to Latvia.

*Hal Gill is officially a “Bag Chucker” while on the road as an analyst with the Nashville Predators, which is a clear indicator of his Massachusetts roots where road beers are given their proper place on the priority list.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are going to be quiet at the trade deadline, which is a sad state for a Hawks team that appears its going to be far out of the playoffs.

*For something completely different: It’s the end of an era for L.L. Bean, who will no longer offer lifetime guarantees for their products, and will only accept returns within a year of purchase.

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