Bruins

Ryan Donato earns promotion to B’s second line, but staying factor depends on much more than scoring

Adam Richins Photography

Upon returning to Boston following a 10-game stint down in the AHL, Ryan Donato sat down with Bruce Cassidy to discuss what he learned from his tenure with the Baby B’s.

A proven scorer at just about every level of his hockey career, Donato emphasized the need to round out his overall game if he wanted to remain with Boston going forward — noting that 95 percent of the game is played without the puck on your stick.

That acknowledgement was another step forward in Donato’s development as an everyday NHL player. But that doesn’t mean the Harvard product is bottling up the rocket of a wrister that’s in his offensive arsenal.

Sure, 95 percent of the game might be played without the puck, but Donato made sure the remaining five percent counted on Saturday — ripping home his second goal of the season during what was ultimately a 4-2 loss to the Red Wings.

Gaining some momentum down in the AHL seems to be just what Donato needed after a listless start in 2018-19 (one goal in 11 games), with the 22-year-old winger responding on Saturday with six shots on goal to go along with his tally on the man advantage.

A confident Donato could do wonders for a Bruins club averaging under two goals per game in its last eight matchups — and it looks like the promising sniper will get his shot in a top-six role on Tuesday night against the Panthers.

After opening Saturday’s tilt against Detroit on the third line, Donato is poised to skate up on David Krejci’s line going forward, joining Jake DeBrusk on the wing in hopes of adding another scoring punch to a group that has largely kept Boston afloat over the past couple of weeks.

“We're going to try it with Ryan,” Cassidy said of Donato’s recent promotion following Monday’s morning skate. “I thought he did a good job on the offensive side of things. He wants to score every time he’s on the ice. That hasn’t changed. We’re just trying to clean up the rest.

“When you’re up in the lineup, you’re seeing better defenseman, probably playing most the time against the other team's second or first line, so you have to make sure you’re accountable the other way. But I liked his compete on the puck, I like that he scored again, so we’ll give it a whirl.”

Given his offensive tools, Donato seems like a logical fit for a top-six role on a Bruins team dealing with some scoring woes. But, harkening back to Donato’s chat with Cassidy, what might stand as the final determinant of the winger’s place in the lineup won’t hinge solely on goals and assists.

Donato still has plenty to work on in all facets of his game, even when he does have the puck on his stick.