Ryan Donato is going back to Harvard in the fall for his junior semester as earning a degree is extremely important for the Scituate, Mass native. However, something else he is gaining from Harvard is equally important, and that’s the ability to become more versatile on the ice.
Entering his freshman year at Harvard, Donato played mostly center. But due to a surplus of talent down the middle, Donato learned to play the wings. A move that has benefited Donato in his two years while playing for his father and former Bruin Ted Donato. After 13 goals in 32 games his freshman season, Donato went through no sophomore slump, registering 21 goals in 36 games as Harvard appeared in the Frozen Four for the first time since 1994.
Not only has his movement to the wing helped him become a more versatile player, it’s helped him become a more complete player. Playing on Harvard’s penalty kill and power play units has helped the cause.
“I think being able to be flexible and being able to do the things that they needed to do. Getting reps on the power play and penalty kill is definitely huge,” Donato said Sunday following the last session of development camp at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton.
“Obviously, you want to be a guy that can play every different positon in every single situation. I think college is great for that. A lot of guys in college are the top guys that get to play in those positions, rather than if they jump too early they may not be able to be on the power play because they don’t know how, or they don’t get to be on the penalty kill because they don’t know how to kill correctly.”
Now entering his junior season, Donato may go back to seeing some time at center just as he did prior to enrolling at Harvard. For Donato, he wants to be the best he can at either position.
“I think being able to play more than one position, particularly at the NHL level is something that every team looks for, and I think if I can go to Harvard and learn how to play center correctly and learn how to play wing correctly, I think that will have more of an impact if I turn pro,” added Donato.
Speaking of turning pro, Donato has no plans of that just yet, but in case things change after what he hopes to be a successful junior campaign, he is trying to make sure he finishes as many courses as he can, because to him, that degree is just as important to him as is making it to the NHL.
“I haven’t taken any summer courses, but I am trying to get as many classes that I need to get done out of the way as early as I can just in case,” said Donato. “Obviously, it could be for nothing and I am taking classes just to get them done, but again, I want to make sure every facet of school and hockey is ready.”
A bit of a trend has been developing of late as some college players stay at their respective schools for four years and then become free agents as they enter the NHL. Donato understands why they make that decision, but his sense is that this is something that is not an option for him.
“I understand it, but I just don’t think it’s applicable to my situation in particular,” Donato said. “I mean growing up in Boston, I’ve always been a Bruins fan and I think that’s something a lot of guys always try and do, but I haven’t put much thought into that. I’ve been very happy here and very fortunate to be a part of this and a part of Boston and hopefully I can continue to be for a while.”
Hypothetically asked if he would be ready to turn pro if asked tomorrow, his answer was simple
“That’s a tough question, I mean it depends on what situation I am in. Honestly, I mean that talent level in the NHL is so extreme that if I had to, it could go either way.”