In anticipation of the Seattle Kraken‘s inaugural season, we at The Hockey Writers will be doing a deep dive on each player. This installment focuses on forward Ryan Donato, who the Kraken signed as an unrestricted free agent.
Position: Left Wing/Center
2020-21 Team: San Jose Sharks
2020-21 Season: The Sharks were not a good team, and Donato had a pretty bland year this past season. He spent an average of 12:37 on the ice and scored just six goals and 20 points. He was out on the power play for 85:52 and scored two goals and five assists. He saw virtually no penalty killing time and was well disciplined with just 10 penalty minutes while having drawn a career-high 16 penalties.
Type of Acquisition: The Kraken signed Donato on Sept. 13.
Donato’s Pre-Kraken Career
Former NHLer, Ted Donato’s son Ryan made his first post-high school hockey marks during the 2014-15 season in the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) with the South Shore Kings and the United States Hockey League (USHL) with the Omaha Lancers. He scored five goals and 10 points for both teams in 13 games with Kings and eight with the Lancers.
Ryan followed in his dad’s footsteps and played college hockey for the Harvard Crimson. Ted coached Ryan during his tenure at Harvard, which lasted three seasons, 2015-2018. Ryan scored 60 goals and 104 points in 97 games and won the 2017 Beanpot hockey tournament, which sees the four major college hockey schools in the Boston area face off.
The Boston Bruins’ 2014 second-rounder played 12 regular-season games in the NHL to kick-start his career following his final collegiate game and carried over his success. He scored five goals and nine points in 12 games before going pointless in three playoff games.
During the 2018-19 season, Donato split time between the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Providence Bruins before he was traded to the Minnesota Wild, where he spent minimal time with the AHL’s Iowa Wild. He finished his AHL season with nine goals and 17 points in 21 games.
His Wild career got off to a decent start that season. Putting up 16 points in 22 games on a non-playoff team made for a good first impression. However, he couldn’t sustain that rate of production the following season. Donato played a career-low 10:38 and scored 14 goals and 23 points in 62 games.
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He was traded to the Sharks for a third-round pick and probably performed below the pick he was traded for’s value. Despite passing up on Donato during the expansion draft, he signed with the Kraken, hoping to rejuvenate his career.
Donato’s Kraken Expectations
It was hard enough to determine the Kraken’s 12th forward going into their inaugural season, let alone the rest of their lineup, prior to signing Donato. He’s really going to need to fight to make this lineup and show that he belongs in the NHL.
He will need consistent ice time and power-play time to really hope to make a mark. He could very well be sent to the AHL to play with and mentor other potential bubble players, such as Kole Lind and Alexander True. If he does sneak into the roster, though, don’t be surprised to find him in the top-nine rather than on the fourth line.
Kraken general manager Ron Francis praised his hockey sense and offensive potential, and they could definitely use snipers. Despite his positional versatility, he’d probably slot in as a winger, as he has a sub-50 faceoff percentage in just over 200 attempts.
Was Signing Donato a Hit or a Miss?
It’s tough to call a 25-year-old second-rounder a bust. However, being labeled as a goal-scorer, yet having trouble consistently finding twine, is concerning. However, the change of scenery might help him. He’s only played in five playoff games, and twice in four seasons, his team missed the playoffs. Aside from playing on the 2018-19 Stanley Cup finalist Bruins, who traded him, he hasn’t played on many successful teams professionally.
Donato still has the skill; he just needs the opportunity. The Kraken have a surplus of players that fit his depth-forward role. If he wants that opportunity, he’s going to have to earn it during training camp. Despite all this, Francis hit on signing Donato.
It’s another one of those one-year, sub-$1 million deals that are meant to bolster organizational depth. It’s a “prove it” kind of contract. He will be a restricted free agent once it expires, and it is really a low-risk, high-reward signing. With training camp coming up, it’s almost time to see if he’ll prove the naysayers wrong.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.