Ryan Donato

Taking a shot at what the Bruins opening night roster might look like

Taking a shot at what the Bruins opening night roster might look like

BRIGHTON, Mass. - With the Bruins training camp finally on the same continent and the team together for the first time, things are beginning to feel a lot more like an NHL training camp.

It certainly felt that way on Friday when Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy addressed the Boston media for the first time and then again on Saturday when Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask and David Pastrnak were back working out at Warrior Ice Arena. So now is the time to get real about competition for open spots on the NHL roster and to start prognosticating which lines and pairings will be rolled out Oct. 3 on opening night in Washington.

To this point, Cassidy said that nobody has played their way off the NHL roster four games into the preseason and that sets up an interesting battlefield for candidates in the final four exhibition games starting tonight vs. the Detroit Red Wings.

“The veteran guys won’t play on Saturday and there’s quite a few that won’t play on Monday either, so we’re looking at a week together with a couple of home preseason games to maybe look at our lineup a little bit more,” said Cassidy. “So, Monday we’ll get another look and then we’ll decide how we’re shaping up here. By then you’re hoping that now we’re looking at where [Sean] Kuraly fits in, and hopefully [Bergeron] is ready to go by then. Who is Krejci’s linemate going to be on the right side? So now we’re looking at one of the guys that’s here and whether they’ll fit in with him. It could go down to the wire for one or two spots, but Monday is a big day for some of those guys.”

One of the biggest questions facing this roster is whether to keep Bergeron, Pastrnak and Marchand together on the top line, or whether it’s better to slide Pastrnak in with Krejci to make two offensively dangerous forward lines. Much of it depends on the performance of the younger candidates on the wing, and thus far, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato have performed well while vying for one of those right-wing spots.

Then there’s the third-line center vacancy left by the departure of Riley Nash. That's potentially up for competition among a number of players including Chris Wagner, Kuraly, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka. Studnicka fared well centering Marchand and Pastrnak in China, and both Frederic and JFK had their moments centering potential NHL forward lines overseas as well. To this point, the Bruins kiddie corps has all done exceedingly well and that’s something that has all of them still standing as viable candidates.

“I think Donato was good in Game One. Game Two he made some plays and had some turnovers...the usual stuff that we work on with the young guys, but I love his initiative. He’s a guy that loves to make things happen,” said Cassidy. “JFK had pockets of really good shifts, and other teams he was tentative where we had to remind him it’s a 60-minute game. But again they are young guys. Frederic was very good on the kill with Backes, who has been his partner. He scored a goal, so offensively they all chipped in.

“Jack [Studnicka] had a little penalty trouble. I’m not sure he deserved all of them, but he’s learning that hands and sticks have to stay off the body. But again he’s 19 years old. Urho Vaakanainen played one game and he was pretty efficient. He’s a pretty smooth player as well.”

As lineups get more veteran-laden and the intensity ramps up in final four preseason games, here’s a first glance at what the Bruins roster might look like Oct. 3 against the Capitals:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak
DeBrusk-Krejci-Donato
Heinen-JFK-Backes
Wagner-Kuraly-Acciari

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Moore-Miller

Rask
Halak

The toughest omission is obviously Matt Grzelcyk on the back end after a strong rookie campaign, but the bottom line with Boston’s defensemen is that there’s going to be a good player sitting every night. Up front, Anders Bjork is the biggest name kept off, but his shoulder injury has put him behind Donato and Heinen, who have played very well in the preseason.

The biggest feature is keeping together Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak and that just comes down to maintaining an advantage that the Bruins will have over just about every team with a trio that can dominate at both ends of the ice. It would be easier to find a right winger that can make things go on the second line than recreating the magic of the Perfection Line using different forwards, so there’s a strong argument to be made for keeping the top group together for the long haul.  

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Morning Skate: Donato among the Calder candidates this season

Morning Skate: Donato among the Calder candidates this season

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a happy and safe Labor Day. Pearl Jam was pretty awesome at Fenway last night.

--The Hockey News is out with their Calder Trophy candidates for each of the 31 NHL teams, and Ryan Donato is the top contender from the Bruins organization after flashing at the end of last season. Donato is an interesting name to watch among some of the perhaps more high profile rookies coming into the league like Rasmus Dahlin, but if Donato wins a top-6 winger role in camp he could be in a position to rack up some pretty good numbers this season. I like Donato as a dark horse pick for the Calder given how productive he was in his brief NHL stint last season combined with the opportunity in front of him.

--Artemi Panarin to the Dallas Stars is unlikely, but would be glorious fun according to Pro Hockey Talk. I still wouldn’t rule out the Bruins tossing their hat into the ring if the price becomes reasonable for them. The fit would be great with the Black and Gold, but they understandably don’t want to risk him fleeing in free agency at the end of this season, which might happen to whichever team ponies up and trades for him.

--As we’ve mentioned a couple of times, Tyler Seguin is disappointed with the state of contract extension talks in Dallas.

--Brock Boeser did a very good social media thing recently when he exposed a hateful troll and got them suspended from the platform.

--Connor McDavid wants to score more goals for the Oilers, and thereby help their chances of getting into the playoffs. That seems to make logical sense.

--For something completely different: A good piece of the longstanding marriage between Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth, and what makes it all work.

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Ryan Donato

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Ryan Donato

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Ryan Donato

MORE COUNTDOWN TO TRAINING CAMP

The 22-year-old Donato had a whirlwind season that finished with him in Boston skating for his hometown Bruins, and doing plenty of scoring when he was in the lineup. The former Harvard standout got a 12-game audition at the end of the regular season and even got a couple of playoff games under his belt, and should see plenty more action this season based on everything he did offensively. In fact given that the Bruins didn’t net the big sniper they were chasing after this summer, a guy like Donato could factor very heavily in Boston’s goal-scoring needs on the wing.  

What Happened Last Year: Donato started with a dominant season at Harvard University where he scored 26 goals in 29 games for the Crimson, and then starred for Team USA at the Olympics as one of their biggest offensive threats. After he was finished with the amateur end of things, Donato opted to leave one year of eligibility at Harvard by signing an entry level deal with the Bruins. Donato continued to score at the NHL level with five goals and nine points in 12 games for the Black and Gold at the end of the regular season. It was clear that Donato needed some work defensively and also along the boards, but you can’t teach the instincts and goal-scoring shooter’s touch that Donato put on display in Boston. The kid can shoot the puck and score the puck, and those things will be very important for the B’s this season.  

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The question for Donato is where exactly he’s going to fit into the picture with the Bruins this season. First of all he’ll need to show a better grasp of the two-way game and a little more ability to battle along the boards, but Donato is the kind of kid that’s going to work on any shortcomings in his game. It would be a surprise at this point if he needs to go to the AHL to refine any of those aspects to his game. Beyond that it’s about where he fits into the mix along with the other talented wingers in Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen, and finding a place in the top-9 once the regular season gets going. Nothing is guaranteed for Donato at this point and it’s pretty crowded on the left side unless Danton Heinen swings over to right wing, but the sense here is that Donato will work his way into an everyday spot for the Black and Gold.

In Their Words: “It’s a different animal, the NHL. I’m going to come back in the best shape of my life, and I’ll be ready to go when I get back here. I know what to expect now. I came in at the hardest part of the season. It’s not easy to come in right from college right to here, and it’s a huge jump. Now, at least, I know what to expect at the toughest point of the year, so I’ll be ready and hopefully prepare my body to withstand that.” –Ryan Donato, on his approach to his first full NHL season after getting his feet wet at the end of last season.  

Overall Outlook: The ridiculous 2014 NHL Draft class continues to flourish for the Bruins as David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork were all selected, and are all expected to be on the roster for this upcoming season. Donato was the second Bruins pick in that very successful weekend, and he’s looking to really get things going with his first full season as a professional. Donato has the scorer’s shot and release, he has the mindset to constantly shoot the puck when given an inch and he’s got the kind of instincts and hockey smarts that come with being the son of an NHL player. All the ingredients are there for Donato be a big breakout player for the Bruins this upcoming season, and they’re certainly looking for one of their young forwards to step up offensively after missing out on Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares over the summer. 

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