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.
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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