BOSTON — Ryan Donato won’t be pulling double-duty during the 2018-19 NHL season.
The Boston Bruins forward burst onto the scene at the end of last season, scoring five goals and racking up four assists in 12 games — all while continuing to take classes at Harvard. It was an impressive juggling act for the 22-year-old Massachusetts native, albeit one that surely made it difficult to excel at both disciplines.
But Donato, a sociology major, has one thing on his mind with the new campaign fast approaching.
“I’m not taking classes this season, during the season. I took two this summer,” Donato, who still wants to finish his degree, told NESN.com on Thursday at Bruins rookie camp. “But I will not be taking classes this season.
“Focusing on hockey 100 percent, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Donato’s commitment to hockey, of course, is warranted: The Bruins have an opening at right wing on the second line, and Donato just might be the man for the job. Assuming Boston doesn’t sign a veteran or a pull off a trade in the coming weeks, Donato likely only has to beat out 19-year-old Jack Studnicka, who the Bruins took in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
In addition to having already proven himself on the NHL level, Donato also has positional versatility working for him in his quest to land a roster spot out of training camp. A center by trade, the left-shooting Donato also has shown the ability to produce on both wings.
“If I’m able to play all three positions, it gives me a better chance to be in the lineup and in a spot I want be in,” Donato said. ” … Each position I feel comfortable at.
” … At the end of the day, it’s just a period of developing into that position, and once I get those type of things I want to work on, hopefully I’ll become more comfortable in every position.”
For all of Donato’s clear talents, the Bruins haven’t exactly rolled out a red carpet to a spot on their top two lines. Offseason pursuits of free agents John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk, for example, suggest Boston would be more comfortable filling the void with a veteran. Furthermore, Donato — like most rookies — still has to work on his two-way game.
Still, with a more sharpened focus on hockey, along with undeniable offensive abilities, Donato is primed to have a breakout season on a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Thumbnail photo via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Images