Wednesday afternoon saw the Charlie Coyle era in Minnesota come to an end, as the Massachusetts native was traded to the Boston Bruins in exchange for forward Ryan Donato and a 2019 fifth-round draft pick.
Donato, 22, has played in 34 games for the Bruins this season, registering six goals and three assists. He has been playing with AHL Providence since his demotion on January 28 where he had just tallied two goals and an assist in eight games played.
The Boston native is in his first full season of professional hockey after signing out of Harvard last March. Boston drafted Donato in the second round — 56th overall — of the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia. Donato scored 104 points (60 goals and 44 assists) over 97 games that spanned three seasons with the Crimson before departing for the NHL. He was also named a Hobey Baker award finalist in 2018, as the forward led his team with 43 points.
Donato was also a darling of Team USA in last year’s Winter Olympics. He scored five goals in five games to lead the United States on the world’s biggest stage alongside now current Wild teammate Jordan Greenway.
So what exactly makes Donato special? The guy loves to shoot — a need the Wild badly need at this juncture.
Donato lead college hockey with 185 shots in the 2016-17 season and finished fourth in the NCAA in 2017-18 with 175 shots on goal. In his 46 combined games with the Bruins between last year and this year, Donato ranked third on the team in shots per hour with 9.28 — only trailing Patrice Bergeron and David Backes. This season alone, Donato carries a 10.87 shots per 60 minutes, which lead the Bruins and would easily lead the Wild.
While he has certainly taken a great number of shots this season, only a few have found their way past the opposition goaltenders. Donato is just shooting 8 percent in all situations with the Bruins this year, and he is shooting an even worse 4.8 percent at 5-on-5.
While Donato brings good skill and a much-needed ability to shoot to Minnesota, his struggles this season had him sent to Providence of the AHL on two separate occasions. The first instance of Donato getting demoted back in November, had the winger going down to the minors to work on puck management and build back some confidence after he tallied just one goal in the team’s first 11 games.
More from Joey MacDonald of The Athletic on Donato’s first demotion: “The message given to Donato was simple. The Bruins want him to improve his puck management, regain his scoring touch and build his confidence. It’s likely he’ll spend a decent amount of time in Providence because it won’t do him any good to constantly shuttle up and down between the minor league team and the big club in Boston.”
After five goals and three assists in 10 games with Providence, Donato was recalled to Boston. Upon his return, he scored two goals in his first five games back and was rewarded with some increased ice time over the next few games.
But the magic ran out for Donato and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy felt another stint in the AHL was needed. Being strong on the puck was again something the Bruins wanted Donato to work on in Providence, which was Cassidy’s point of emphasis when the winger was assigned on Jan. 28.
However Donato again took his demotion in stride and acknowledged some things he had to work on in Providence. “There’s definitely things I need to work on,” Donato said, “and the strength thing is one thing. I know last year nobody would say that I was getting pushed off my skates. I think it’s something people say he’s fallen down a few times, maybe it’s a little bit of nerves, maybe a little excited to play, but I know I’m a strong hockey player. I’ve had people at every level tell me I’m strong with the puck, so all of a sudden to have it said now, I know my abilities.”
Boston never recalled Donato, and his time with the Bruins came to an abrupt end after a promising start 11 months ago.
The Bruins felt they could do without Donato and his abilities after moving him Wednesday afternoon to Minnesota. Boston felt they could make better use of the season and change left with Charlie Coyle, with Donato serving as a perfect return for the young forward.
The trick now for the Wild will be to harness Donato’s abilities into a top-six forward that they could badly use — especially one who loves to shoot the puck.
Paul Fenton could have just kept the sure thing he had in Coyle. Instead, the Wild general manager shipped Coyle out to Boston and is taking a gamble that Donato can find his game with Minnesota and can turn into a solid top six forward that he has shown flashes of being.
“And by no means that I’ve reached my abilities either. I truly believe that I can be not just an NHL player but a high-impact NHL player. A 30-goal scorer is something I aspire to be,” Donato told the Boston Globe.
The Wild, and more importantly Fenton, sure hope he can hit that 30-goal plateau down the road.