In anticipation of the Seattle Kraken‘s inaugural season, we at The Hockey Writers are writing deep-dives on each player. This installment focuses on right wing Joonas Donskoi, whom the Kraken selected from the Colorado Avalanche in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
Donskoi is a shifty, nimble forward who utilizes his stick-handling and edge work to generate scoring chances. He recently notched career-highs in several offensive categories and will likely compete for a spot on Seattle’s second line.
2020-21 Team: Colorado Avalanche
2020-21 Season: 51 GP, 17 G, 14 A, 31 PTS
Type of Acquisition: Expansion Draft
Donskoi joins the Kraken in the prime of his career and with two years remaining on his contract. The 6-foot, 190-pound winger skates deceptively with the puck and can quickly shift directions to create space from defenders. This style of attack makes him especially deadly on breakaways or in the shootout. He often showcases his speed in transition but needs to make decisions quickly. Otherwise, defenders can out-muscle him and knock him off the puck.
In recent seasons, Donskoi has improved his ability to position himself in front of the net to corral rebounds and take second-chance shots. He can serve the role either at even strength or on the power play; like Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he will position himself in the high slot on the man advantage.
As I explain further below, one key downside to Donskoi is his scoring inconsistencies. He has scored at nearly a point-per-game pace when joined by top-six talents like Nathan MacKinnon and Andre Burakovsky. However, when moved to a third-line role, he has not consistently made the best use of his offensive skillset.
Donskoi primarily plays in the offensive zone but performs decently in the other two zones. Per 82 games, he has averaged 37 takeaways and 41 blocked shots, and he also has a career .914 on-ice save percentage. In other words, goaltenders have saved 91.4 percent of shots when he is on the ice — well above the league average of .903. Additionally, he plays a disciplined game, having averaged just 21 penalty minutes per 82 games throughout his career.
Born in Raahe, Finland, Donskoi began his professional hockey career in his home country. The Florida Panthers selected him 99th overall in the 2010 Draft; however, he never appeared in an NHL game with them. Playing in the Finnish Liiga, he finished tied for fourth in league scoring and goals in 2014-15 — tallying 19 goals and 30 assists in 58 games. Following a career-best performance in the regular season, he surged in the playoffs for 22 points in just 16 games, helping Kärpät capture the Liiga championship. He also received the Jari Kurri Trophy, the equivalent of the NHL’s Conn Smythe Trophy for most valuable player in the playoffs.
The San Jose Sharks signed Donskoi in the 2015 offseason and qualified him for a spot on the roster. Playing third-line minutes, he appeared in 76 games, scoring 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points. He also blocked a career-high 41 shots and forced 33 turnovers. He then elevated his contributions in the 2016 Playoffs, chipping in six goals and six assists in 24 games. The greatest moment of his NHL career came on June 4, 2016, when he scored the overtime-winning goal in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The following season was a struggle for Donskoi, but he rebounded fairly well between 2017-18 and 2018-19. In those two seasons, he registered nearly a point every other game — recording 28 goals, 41 assists and a plus-20 rating over 146 games. However, his career in San Jose finished on a lackluster note. Coach Peter DeBoer occasionally demoted him to the fourth line and even scratched him during the 2019 Playoffs; Donskoi missed eight of the team’s 20 postseason games. He signed with the Avalanche in the offseason.
Donskoi benefitted from a fresh start and set career-highs in 2019-20. He scored 16 goals and added 17 assists for 33 points over 65 games. He also recorded his first hat trick on Nov. 7, 2019 against the Nashville Predators. Despite the milestone, he only notched three goals and three assists in his final 35 games. This is partially because he was playing more often on the third line with defensive-minded players like J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost. Donskoi was moved back to the second line for the playoffs and, as a result, contributed three goals and three assists in nine games; he missed the final five games due to injury.
A Career-High 2020-21 Season
Donskoi built on his early successes in Colorado for the 2020-21 season. He played 51 of 56 games but still managed to set a career-high with 17 goals. When prorated to an 82-game season, his 31 points project out to 50 points, the best of his career. He also had a career-high five power-play goals and a 19.8 shooting percentage. Three of Donskoi’s goals came in a first-period flurry in a March 31 game against the Arizona Coyotes. He exploded for a hat trick in a span of 3:27; he also picked up an assist and recorded a plus-3 rating as Colorado won decisively, 9-3.
Donskoi broke out for 28 points in the first 35 games of the season, but he cooled off significantly the rest of the way. Immediately after his hat trick, he began a stretch of 14 games in which he registered just one assist; he also missed five games during that period due to COVID-19 related reasons. In the playoffs, he contributed three goals and two assists over 10 games. That said, three of those points came in a single game against the St. Louis Blues.
How Donskoi Fits With the Kraken
The Kraken had two strong options when selecting an Avalanche player in the expansion draft. When revisiting their picks, I argued that Seattle should have selected forward J.T. Compher. He is younger than Donskoi and, in addition to some scoring upside, offers a strong defensive skill set. Nonetheless, with Donskoi, Seattle solidified its depth at right wing.
I envision Donskoi fitting on the second line, potentially starting the season with Marcus Johansson at left wing and, more likely, Calle Järnkrok at center; the Kraken will be without Yanni Gourde for at least the start of the season, therefore affecting the makeup of their forward lines. Jordan Eberle would occupy the right wing on the first line but, depending on line chemistry, could be interchanged with Donskoi.
Once Gourde returns, Donskoi should still keep his spot. The two-time Stanley Cup winner could fit in a variety of spots, as he can add scoring to the top-six or can center a checking line. That said, I see him possibly playing left wing alongside Järnkrok and Donskoi. When considering the power play, I think Donskoi fits well into a second unit role; Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz will likely occupy the wings on the first unit.
Donskoi makes for an exciting, defensively reliable addition to Seattle’s top-six. Although he has periods of inconsistency, he performs much better when joined by top-end talent. He thrives when pushing the pace of play, but he can also contribute on set plays from the high slot. Moreover, his friendly, approachable demeanor will likely win the favor of his teammates and Kraken fans.
We at THW have plenty more “Meet the Kraken” articles in-store, so be sure to check back for the latest player profiles. We also plan to project forward lines, defensive pairings, and special teams units prior to the start of the season.
Nick covers the Seattle Kraken for THW. At his alma mater, Santa Clara University, he served as sports editor for the campus newspaper but carved out time to cheer on his San Jose Sharks nearby. His professional experience spans reporting, copywriting, and video production for sports, gaming, and tech brands.