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Rich Thompson | The Boston Herald | April 9, 2018

Donato draws on Harvard past in the NHL faceoff circle

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Rookie Ryan Donato developed his aptitude for finding an edge in the faceoff circle at Harvard.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy removed Donato from David Krejci's line and placed him in the middle of the third line with Danton Heinen and Brian Gionta for last night's pivotal season finale against the Florida Panthers at the Garden.

Cassidy saw the wisdom of the shift in Saturday's win over Ottawa when Donato replaced David Backes over the dot on the third line. Donato had seven faceoff wins without a loss against the Senators, a solid contribution for a kid playing his 11th NHL game.

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"At Harvard I was a center all year so I was taking draws and being here obviously draws matter a lot more," said Donato, following an abbreviated pregame film session at Warrior Ice Arena.

"It's not like they didn't matter at Harvard but I wanted to win every draw and I was focused on winning every draw and happy with the results."

The NHL's rules in the faceoff circle are more stringently enforced than they are in the ECAC, where Donato developed the stick skills required to manage the draw.

"You have to watch what you what you are doing (in the NHL) but I almost like it more," said Donato. "There is a lot more stick action when you're working on the draws, and in college hockey it's all about who can be sneaky the best and not get thrown out and win the draw.

"Here is a lot more about that you can't really be sneaky. You have to use your stick and skill. I kind of like that."

Donato has made an impact since signing an entry level contract with the Bruins after Harvard was eliminated from the ECAC tournament. Donato scored a goal and two assists in his NHL debut, a 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus at the Garden on March 19.

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Donato anticipated a playoff feel to the season closer with Florida because the Bruins were playing for first place in the Eastern Division and home ice through the opening three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Donato had five goals and three assists in his first 11 games and has become a fixture on the Bruins power play. Donato's last tally was a power-play goal at Florida on April 5.

Donato has been able to draw on his college experiences to adapt to the professional game but nothing in his hockey background compares to the NHL playoffs.

"Playoff hockey is a different animal, there is nothing really like it," said Donato. "I think I'm kind of getting ready and using these games that we have to get used to that playoff-type hockey and playing our system very strictly.

"Not making any mistakes is something we are trying to harp on right now. We want to treat it (Florida) like a playoff game and obviously it is our last chance.

"Guys are really excited for the opportunity and guys want to come into the playoffs hot and ready to go."

This article is written by Rich Thompson from Boston Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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