Wild’s best forward? It’s been Ryan Donato
ST. PAUL -- Ryan Donato’s initial concern was that there wouldn’t be a place for him in Minnesota.
Donato was playing for Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate in Providence, R.I., when he learned he had been traded to the Wild for Charlie Coyle five days ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
“I literally thought of their lineup right away and was like, 'Where do I fit in?'” he said. “I think that’s something that every guy that wants to play does.”
No worries now.
Since joining the Wild for a Feb. 21 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, Donato leads all players in points with 13, including four goals, in the past 13 games headed into Tuesday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.
Donato’s 37 shots on goal are just one behind Jason Zucker’s team-high 38 in the same span. Coyle, meanwhile, has a goal and assist on 19 shots in 11 games with Boston.
“The more you shoot, the more chances you have to score,” Donato said. “I think that was one of the biggest things they were looking for, a guy that would shoot the puck and create more offense here. That’s something I hope to bring to the team.”
After seeing what Donato, 22, has done in Minnesota, it’s hard to believe he hadn’t found a place in Boston, but the Bruins are preparing for the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 seasons, their 95 points behind only Tampa Bay’s league-leading 106. That wasn’t the case in Minnesota, which has been in and out of a playoff spot since returning from the all-star break on Feb. 1. They woke up Tuesday a point behind Arizona for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.
Donato was in Providence when the Wild picked him up, demoted there after six goals among nine points in 34 games with the big-league club. A star for three seasons at Harvard — 60 goals and 104 points in 97 games — he had seven goals and 12 points in 18 games with Providence this season.
“I think I was a guy who wasn’t able to have much success up top and was back and forth,” Donato said. “I was playing well when I was playing. It was just a matter of development for them; they wanted me to develop down there at the time and hopefully be ready for playoffs, or something like that.
“But for me, I always thought I was ready to play at the NHL level and stay at the NHL level, and the guys here have been giving me the opportunity, and it’s been great so far.”
Boudreau had rare praise for Donato on Tuesday, likening his scoring approach to three-time Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, whom Boudreau coached in Washington from 2007-11.
“He doesn’t just get it and shoot; he pulls it in, he changes the angle of the shot,” Boudreau said. “I’m not comparing him to Ovechkin, but one of the things Ovechkin did really, really good was when he came down the left wing, as soon as the defenseman opened up his legs, he would put it through his legs and pull it. Donato is something like that. I’ve seen it in a few of his goals so far — he’s pulling it and changing the angle of the puck.”