Boston Bruins

Donato shows at prospect camp his time is coming with Bruins

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Donato shows at prospect camp his time is coming with Bruins

With some college hockey players, there is going to be a shred of uncertainty with their draft teams about whether or not that player will end up in their organization.

Whether it’s Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes or Blake Wheeler, there are more than a handful of examples of prominent college players that ended up eschewing the team that drafted them for free agency once their NCAA careers had finished. It’s a part of the CBA and it will always be a legit worry for players that outperform their draft status while in college, and that’s the way it will continue to be even as most players end up signing with their draft teams as Notre Dame winger Anders Bjork did with the B’s a couple of months ago.  

One player that the Bruins aren’t going to have to worry about when it comes to this situation is Harvard University forward Ryan Donato - for obvious reasons. Donato is the son of a Bruins player, he grew up a Bruins fan and his longtime hockey idol happens to wear No. 37 in Black and Gold.

“This is what kind of guy Patrice Bergeron is. . . he was around the house a little bit when I was a little kid and he was a rookie in the NHL,” said Donato, whose dad was in his final NHL season with the Bruins in that 2003-04 campaign when Bergeron was the youngest player in the league. “I hadn’t seen him for a pretty long time, and then he saw me in Foxboro [at the summer pro league] a couple of years ago and said ‘Hey Ryan, how’s it going?’

“That’s pretty cool when your idol and the player you most look up to can remember you like that. It says a lot about him as a person, and we know what he’s all about as a player. He’s just a great guy…one of the best.”

So you put all of that together and spurning the Bruins organization is something that will likely never cross his mind. Instead, the 21-year-old Donato is coming off a sophomore season where he popped in 21 goals and 40 points in 36 games for the Crimson, and topped it off by truly standing out during Bruins development camp earlier this month.

“I just want to make sure I’m ready to go. If I ever have a chance to play [in the NHL], I just want to make sure I’m ready,” said Donato when describing his decision-making process about when it will be ‘time’ at Harvard. “[My dad] has never led me wrong once in my entire career and in my entire life, so I really don’t think I have to worry about what he says. Whatever he says I take it very seriously and it goes heavily into my consideration.

“I understand [the Vesey option], but I don’t think it’s applicable to me in my situation. Growing up in Boston I’ve always been a Bruins fan, and I’ve been very happy and fortunate to a part of this [organization] and hopefully I can be for a while. Obviously, I had loyalty even before given that I was a fan, but you really feel like you do owe the organization something after they’ve drafted you.”

Donato and Bjork were consistently the best forwards during the week of B’s prospect camp, and Donato has taken a major leap forward with his skating, his size and strength and his ability to dominate with the puck on his stick. The hands and skating game are high level, and the maximum effort expended at all times is very reminiscent of the way his dad Teddy approached the game during his 796-game NHL career.

Clearly, the Bruins have always thought highly of him above and beyond his obvious connections to the organization, and that’s why he was a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. Now Donato is beginning to ripen as an NHL prospect, and the Black and Gold management group can see into the near future when he’ll be pushing for a job. The new wrinkle for this season will be playing at Harvard with his younger brother, and moving to the center position after playing the past two NCAA seasons on the wing.  

It will be an interesting spot for a kid in Donato that’s already got a wicked shot and release, and routinely beat the goaltender prospects at B’s camp once he aimed and fired on net.

“We’ve always thought Ryan’s skillset was excellent. He’s going to play center this year and I’ve talked to Teddy [Ted Donato] about that. We’re excited to see him play there. He had played a lot of that at Dexter [School]. It puts a lot more responsibility; more two-way responsibility on him,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “It’ll be interesting because he’s a primary shooter and he has an unbelievable release. There aren’t a lot of shooting center men in the National Hockey League.

“But Joe Sakic scored an awful lot of goals. So players that have that skillset, he can complement better players and I think that’s what we’re excited about. We’ll just continue to communicate year by year with where Ryan feels he’s at. But, he is [supported] by his family and he’ll make the best decision. I think he’s awfully close [to being ready].”

While it’s a done deal Donato is headed back to Cambridge for his junior season on the campus with the wicked smart kids, it wouldn’t surprise anybody if he’s getting his feet wet as a pro by the end of this upcoming season. It might be a year or two, but it will certainly be all kinds of right to once again see the last name “Donato” emblazoned on the back of a Bruins sweater in the near future. 

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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