Ryan Donato began the 2017-18 hockey season in a Harvard sweater. Heading in to his junior campaign he had his eyes set on the NCAA title banner, and a continuation of skill development.
By February the Crimson crest was replaced with the USA shield. The 22-year-old Donato not only made the 2018 U.S. Olympic Men’s team, he led Team USA with five goals and six points in the five games played in Pyeonchang.
His prowess continued to be evident when he returned to Cambridge. With just 29 games under his belt for his third college season, Donato’s 26 goals and 43 points led the Harvard roster. When the Crimson failed to make the NCAA tournament he swapped sweaters once again, this time in favor of the Boston Bruins ‘B’.
Once again Donato, selected by Boston in the second-round (No. 56) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, made a splash. He has nine points (five goals, four assists) in 12 games played, including one goal and two assists in his NHL debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 19.
Like a hockey carousal, each stop Donato has gotten off at he’s been successful.
“It’s been a whirlwind experience,” the rookie forward said. “I have had the opportunity to play for three different great teams.
“At Harvard it was an unbelievable season. Obviously I wish it could have gone better, but I was happy with the season and happy with the guys.
“The Olympics were great too. There’s not many words you can use to describe what it means being on the Olympic team, but it was unbelievable. I got the chance to meet some great players, guys like Gio (Brian Gionta) who are great veterans and who I can look up to.
“And now I’m here. It’s all happening very fast and the experience is unbelievable so far.”
In the Harvard sweater
It was easy to spot Donato’s scoring prowess from the get-go. His freshman year at Harvard he had 13 goals and 21 points. His sophomore year he improved upon that to register 21 goals and 40 points, along with finshing a plus-19. His most recent junior season was even better, with 26 goals and a plus-15.
Sweeter than his skills is the fact that Donato was able to compete at Harvard under his dad, Ted, and alongside his younger brother, Jack, a freshman.
“That was awesome to play there with him, and to have my dad there,” Donato said. “It was like a family party every game.”
Family remains important to Donato, who has quickly become a rising star. All three of his siblings—Jack, Nolan, a senior at Dexter School, and Maddie, a freshman at Scituate—and both of his parents were there for his first NHL game.
And success runs entirely in the family.
The eldest Donato child also supports his siblings in all of their endeavors. He still mentors Jack when asked. He applauds Nolan, who Ryan said, “is an unbelievable singer. He’s a very talented person.” And cheers youngest sister, Maddie, on in all of her sports which include soccer, lacrosse and tennis.
“No hockey for her. She’s got my mom sports,” Donato explains. “My mom was a DI soccer player, so (Maddie) wants to play soccer in college I think.”
In the Team USA sweater
“What can you say about playing in the Olympics, other than that it was unbelievable,” Donato said.
It wasn’t the first international experience for the forward. He collected four points (three goals, one assist) in seven games for a bronze-medal victory at the World Junior Championship in 2016.
Sure, that was special, but Donato said, it’s still nothing like an Olympic stage.
“It’s just an incredible feeling to represent the United States any time, but it really is extra special at the Olympics.”
In the Bruins sweater
Donato said he remembers watching the Bruins games nightly. Now he’s making an impact playing with them nightly.
“A team I grew up idolizing watching guys like Bergy (Patrice Bergeron) and (Zdeno) Chara, and a lot of these guys I kind of watched as a kid, now it’s kind of crazy to think I have the opportunity to play with them,” Donato said.
The outcomes weren’t what he wanted with Harvard and Team USA, but he hopes to see a change in results for the Bruins in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff run. Donato and the Bruins face the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one.
“I just want to be able to help the team any way I can,” said Donato. “I’m sure there will be some nerves, because it’s the playoffs, but I’ve played on plenty of big stages. I’ve just got to stick to my game and do what I can to help this team.”
Like he has done—with every team—all season.