BRIGHTON, Mass – Ryan Donato is off to a strong start with the Minnesota Wild after getting traded there for Charlie Coyle ahead of the deadline and that predictably has Bruins fans in a tizzy. The fact Coyle doesn’t have a point in three games yet for the Black and Gold also doesn’t allow for a comparable favor from the Boston end while the 22-year-old Donato has one goal and six points in four games thus far for the Wild.
Still, Coyle has stabilized the third line in three games with Boston and brings the Bruins the kind of size, strength and experience in the middle that they just weren’t going to get from a left shot skill player like Donato.
Donato only had nine points in 34 games for the Bruins this season prior to the trade, but the sudden rush of offense for another team brings back memories of the Bruins trading away young gifted scorers like Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel ahead of their prime years. There’s a big difference between Donato and those other two names, of course. The former Harvard star wasn’t a top-10 selection in the first round and isn’t expected to have the kind of All-Star level careers that either of those two former Bruins have since getting dealt.
Still, the kneejerk reaction from Bruins fans was to take the B’s to task for trading away a raw, young offensive talent like Donato. It remains to be seen how it plays out this season for both teams, but Donato also fed the fire a bit with his comments after his first game in Minnesota.
“They just said, ‘Go and play,’ and that’s when I think I’m at my best when (coaches) have the confidence in me and they let me play,” said Donato after first game with the Wild, per The Athletic’s Michael Russo. “It’s been awhile since the coaches have had a lot of confidence in me to play me in all situations.”
Clearly there was some frustrated from Donato's end about spending time on Boston's fourth line when he was up with the Bruins, and a second AHL tour with the P-Bruins this season. So Donato's comments certainly seemed aimed at least in part toward the Bruins coaching staff.
B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked what crossed his mind when he hears comments like that from a player that just left the organization.
“I take pride in every player that comes through here…the young guys. I’ve always said that Ryan was a good hockey player and I believe he’ll be an NHL player. Was he the best fit on our team? Could we give him the same minutes in the same situations?” said Cassidy, when asked about it after Friday’s Bruins practice. "I think he’s been on the power play and doing well playing the half-wall. Am I going to give him that job instead of [Brad Marchand]? I’m not. Our power play is good.
“Sometimes it’s just about a better fit. But all the way through I think we’ve done a good job developing players here. If Ryan goes on and never looks back, well then we started his development and there’s a certain level of pride there. His comments are what they are, but I wish him well. We’re happy to have Charlie [Coyle] in our lineup and I think it’s a good trade for both teams. Those are usually the ones that are good. Charlie has made us better and if Ryan makes Minnesota better, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.”
Time will tell just how much the Bruins will regret cutting out early on Donato as a player, and how much the gifted Coyle is going to contribute over the next couple of seasons. But it doesn’t sound like the B’s have any regrets right now even if Donato has gone on a points spree since arriving in Minnesota with the Wild.
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