On Thursday, the Boston Bruins assigned Ryan Donato to Providence in a somewhat surprising move.
Donato showcased spurts of potential — i.e. scoring a terrific goal that got overturned after Anders Bjork jumped offside against Montreal — despite his early season struggles. He appeared to be getting back on track by shooting more and being more assertive without the puck. But the Bruins’ coaching staff and front office opted to have Donato find and develop his game at the AHL ranks.
This isn’t the worst thing ever for the former Hobey Baker finalist.
Yes, he was essentially the talk of the town during his three years at Harvard. Yes, he notched 12 points in his first nine games with the Bruins at the end of last season. And yes, Bruins fans should expect a great player in the years to come.
What people need to understand, however, is that this is his first full professional season and that this isn’t college hockey and it takes time to adjust to the pro game. No matter how good a player is — and Donato is clearly good — they need ice time to develop their craft, and the 22-year-old wasn’t getting enough of that in Boston.
Although it would have been nice to see Donato fit seamlessly into the Bruins’ lineup without missing a beat following his impressive collegiate career across the Charles River, he isn’t the first talented youngster and for sure won’t be the last that has spent time in the AHL.
“Personally for Ryan [Donato] it’s: [Charlie] McAvoy, [Brandon] Carlo, [Jake] DeBrusk, [Danton] Heinen have all done it. [David] Pastrnak too. All good young players that have been better off for it,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told the press about Donato’s upcoming Providence assignment. “Time will vary, that part of the message was up to him. He controls how well he plays down there.”
Donato will without a doubt be a first-liner and will see plenty of ice time in Providence, which is exactly what he needs. He’ll also get with the speed and timing of the professional game — albeit against lesser competition — which can only help his development.
The Bruins’ coaching staff has highlighted three areas of improvement for Donato — board control, puck management and scoring. If it takes a few weeks of dusting scrubs in the minor leagues for him to meet those expectations, then so be it.
It will do him plenty of good to tweak, fix and develop his game as an elite player in Providence than to try and figure it out on the fly playing against premier caliber players like Alexander Ovechkin or Connor McDavid. If all goes according to plan, this move will not only benefit Donato but also help the Bruins secondary scoring in the long run.
It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when he makes his return to Causeway Street.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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