Ryan Donato had everything going for him last spring.
The former Harvard standout arrived in grand fashion following a successful three seasons at the collegiate level. Donato’s nine points in the last 12 Bruins’ regular season games in 2017-18 gave the Causeway Street faithful a glimpse into his promising future.
The 22-year-old’s production dipped following that 12-game run. In three games during the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Harvard product did not produce a single point. Donato’s scoring woes followed him into the beginning of the new season, finding the back of the net just once — in the second game of the season against Buffalo back on Oct. 4.
Upon going scoreless in 10 of the 11 contests, the Curious Case of Ryan Donato took itself to Providence with the hope that the promising youngster can get back on track.
Indeed, Donato is finding his rhythm again with seven points (four goals, three assists) in eight games with the AHL club. His Providence tenure — dating back to his assignment on Nov. 1 — includes a two-goal game in a 5-2 home win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Nov. 11 and an overtime winner to go along with an assist in Providence’s 3-2 win over the Rochester Americans five days later.
“It’s all about opportunities,” Donato said on his hot start in Providence. “I think I know that if I get up to that level and if I play as much and am put in situations like I am here, it’ll translate to the [NHL] level.”
Donato’s hot streak comes at a good time for the P-Bruins, a team that has seen part of its roster gutted due to injuries in Boston, as well as some injuries of its own. Providence’s 15 points (6-8-3 record) currently ranks dead last in the Atlantic Division and tied for last with the Toronto Marlies in the Eastern Conference. Their 53 goals rank seventh amongst their high-scoring division foes.
It’s safe to say that Providence can afford to get scoring any way they can, and Donato is more than capable of providing that lift.
The P-Bruins are still trying to find their groove with a 3-3-2 mark since Donato’s arrival. Though the record doesn’t tell the whole story, Donato provides a needed spark for the struggling Baby B’s.
“[Donato]’s been good, he’s had a great attitude,” Providence head coach Jay Leach said. “He’s diving right into learning professional hockey and he’s done a good job. He goes out and does what he does best; he creates chances.”
Donato struggled to create chances during his stint. That was far from the case during last Saturday’s outing. His relentless pursuit and clutch goal scoring gave life to the P-Bruins during their come from behind win over Rochester.
With Providence down 2-0, Donato took a short pass from Olivier Galipeau by the red line. Donato streaked into the Rochester zone on the far side, shook off a check along the boards, the whipped a pass to a hard-charging Jordan Szwarz, who tapped the puck past Americans goaltender Scott Wedgewood for the power play tally, thus cutting the deficit to one.
Cameron Hughes knotted the game up at two early in the second, paving the way for Donato’s overtime heroics. After making a good defensive play to poke the puck away on a one-on-one break then picking up a pass from Colby Cave, Donato stickhandled up the middle before cutting to his left as he entered the Rochester zone. The 2018 U.S. Olympian faked a toe drag before rifling shot that beat Wedgewood on the near side to end the game just 1:09 into the extra frame.
“[Galipeau] made a great pass and was I flying at top speed,” Donato said of his assist on Szwarz’s goal. “I caught the defenseman flat-footed and out the corner of my eye I saw Szwarz going hard to the net so I sent a pass as hard as I could and he made a great play.”
“(Cave) gave me the puck when I had a lot of speed,” Donato continued on his goal. “I faked a toe-drag and went the other way, took a shot and it went in.”
It was a rough and somewhat unlucky start to the season, but the promising Donato is starting to catch up to the pace and speed of pro hockey. Donato’s scoring touch and all-around game are coming along again. That can only mean good things for the second-generation Donato and the Bruins organization.
“I’ve just been working on the details and gaining more confidence,” Donato said. “I’m trying to get the puck on my stick a lot so I can get used to it. So hopefully when I get back to the next level, I’ll have the puck in my stick a lot and it will translate from this game to that.”
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