Ryan Donato Gets Dream Day, Being Drafted by Hometown Team
PHILADELPHIA - "I'm still shaking."
Ryan Donato was outfitted in his new Black & Gold sweater with the Spoked-B on the front, and a new Bruins' hat as he tried to let it sink in.
The forward had just been drafted by his hometown team, the Boston Bruins, 56th overall in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The Massachusetts native was shaking, as he said, and he was all smiles while speaking about his time growing up around Boston, and around the Bruins.
His father, Ted, was selected by Boston 98th overall in the 1987 NHL Draft, and went on to play eight years as a Bruin, then for eight different teams before finishing his career with Boston in 2003-04.
"Surreal. It really is. It doesn’t feel like it’s happening right now," said the forward. "It feels like a dream."
It was an incredible experience for his father and family as well.
"I think he was really excited, too. I think my mom was almost as excited as my dad - my name got called, I just knew she was going to bawl, so I had to give her a quick hug and get out of there before she got too embarrassed on the cameras," he laughed.
"You never know how it's going to play out but to have it be the Bruins, it's really exciting and just a really proud moment as a parent," said his father.
"The memories that came back were just Ryan's chance to know so many Bruins of the past, and just to be a little kid around the locker room, even their kids, so it's a special day."
"From playing mini hockey in the locker rooms, to being around the players, from having guys stay at our house or go golfing, just seeing how they are off the ice, it really is just unbelievable to be here now," he said.
"And now that I'm wearing the jersey, too, it really feels surreal."
He also got to be around current Bruins. His father's final NHL season marked the first season of Patrice Bergeron's career.
"My favorite player is Patrice Bergeron, hands down. I try to copy some of what he does. That's easily the player I try to model my game after," he said.
"I mean, he’s so well-respected around the players off the ice, too. I remember when he was younger, his rookie year, my dad was in his last year in the NHL and he came to my house, he came to the Harvard games. He really is special to me and I try to copy what he does on and off the ice."
"I know how hard of a worker he is on the ice, he works his butt off in the offensive zone and the defensive zone, and he gives his heart and he's loved around Boston."
In addition to Bergeron, Donato cites Brett Hull, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne as players he idolized growing up.
He hopes to follow in his father's footsteps by playing college hockey at Harvard, where his father now currently serves as head coach (and has for 10 years).
The forward spent the 2013-14 season playing prep hockey as a junior at Dexter School in Brookline, Mass., where he scored 37 goals and 78 points 78 points in 30 games, playing for his uncle, Dan.
He could continue playing prep, or choose to play for the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League for the 2014-15 season. General Manager Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins' management will help him with that decision.
He's considered a highly skilled player, who's smooth with the puck and harnesses a rocket of a shot. He upped his conditioning and nutrition so much since the end of his school year that the Bruins' staff saw a different player at the NHL Scouting Combine.
"We were happy to get Donato there [at 56]," said Chiarelli. "I’ve watched him for many years, and our guys really like him. The challenge with assessing a high school player, at least a prep school player, is that the level of competition isn’t always the greatest. But he’s got a tremendous skill set, tremendous bloodlines.
"He’s got to work on his skating, got to work on his strength, but he’s got a good package."
"I’m a guy that can get the puck, to the net, create opportunities, score," said Donato. "I like to be a team player, like to block shots, I like to play the body and I like to play in all situations."
"Some aspects that I can help or change would be my explosiveness and my skating. I'm looking to get better and improve over the summer."
When Donato met with the Bruins' staff at the combine, they were tough on him, to see how he would react.
"At the end [Don Sweeney] was like, 'You can breathe now.' He knew that I was nervous and I realized, oh man, they got me good there. I felt comfortable with them after that," he said. "I feel like after that, I had a pretty good chance to go to the Bruins, but there are so many other great organizations, I would have been happy."
"But now that I’m with the Bruins, I can say this is where I want to be."
In three straight drafts, Boston has selected Massachusetts natives, including Ryan Fitzgerald (2013), Matt Grzelcyk (2012) and now Donato.
"We try to look closely at the Boston kids, and one, we just see them more just because we’re [there], and two, I think it’s important that you get that local flavor," said Chiarelli. "And these kids — selfishly, they’re more motivated, too, to play for their hometown team."
Donato realizes it takes much more than slipping on the draft day jersey, though. He gets firsthand advice from his father about that.
"[My dad] was swimming in a pool with his buddies when he got the call [that he was drafted], walked out of the pool," smiled Donato. "He actually preached to me after that — he said it’s almost better to have that because now you know you need to work and need to get ready."
"And I think that’s what I take from him the most, is this is part of the dream and the dream’s not complete yet. You have to work to get to a certain point."
Dad wasn't jumping ahead quiet yet, though. He was going to make sure his son enjoyed the moment.
"I think you know, getting drafted by the hometown team and always watching them, we'll go to playoff games here and there, so it's the NHL but it's really the Bruins if you're in Boston, so it's a special day," he said.
"Obviously, there's a lot of work between pulling over the jersey today and pulling it over someday in the National Hockey League, but it's a nice day and one we're real proud about."