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Bruins hope increased competition will do Ryan Donato well 07.16.15 at 3:02 pm ET
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2014 second-round pick Ryan Donato will attend Harvard in the fall. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

2014 second-round pick Ryan Donato will attend Harvard in the fall. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

WILMINGTON — By staying at Dexter Academy, Ryan Donato may have chosen the wrong level of competition last season. He won’€™t have to worry about that going forward.

The Bruins’ first pick from the 2014 is already an NHL player (David Pastrnak). Their third pick is a quickly rising prospect who tore up the NCAA as a freshman (Danton Heinen). Smack-dab between those picks was Ryan Donato, whom the B’€™s selected with the 26th pick of the second round.

While it was known he would play under father Ted Donato at Harvard this season, he had yet to choose between returning to Dexter for his senior year or playing against older and better competition in the USHL last season. Citing academics, Donato chose Dexter after playing fall hockey with the South Shore Kings of the USPHL.

Coming off a junior year in which he put up 78 points (37 goals, 41 assists) in 38 games, Donato faced the challenge of still trying to develop while playing in a league he’€™d seemingly already mastered.

“One thing my dad made clear to me was that every player hits that moment where they think that they’€™re playing their greatest, and then they have a downfall,” Donato said Thursday. “What he said was [to] always be competitive and always try to get better no matter where you’€™re at.”

That proved to be tougher than expected for Donato, whose points dropped off as a senior. Feeling that he was something of a marked man against other teams, Donato dropped off his draft year pace with 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in 31 games for Dexter.

When the season ended, Donato went to the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, and against better competition looked more like the player Boston had envisioned. Donato posted five goals and five assists for 10 points in eight games with the Lancers, adding goal in the playoffs.

“At Dexter, I was I was being double-covered a lot, kind of getting that feeling of being in tight spaces,” Donato explained. “When I got to [the USHL], I felt like I had a lot more time and space, but that pace was also a lot faster and I felt like that was more of the pro style that the scouts were looking for.”

Going to college will ramp up Donato’€™s competition significantly, and he likely won’€™t have the burden of the other team focusing entirely on him. The Bruins like what they’€™ve seen from Donato so far at camp and look forward to seeing how he fares at college.

“In all the battle drills and all that stuff, he’€™s competing really hard,” Jay Pandolfo said. “You can see the skill level when he’€™s around the net, so I think he’€™s progressing really well.

“We’€™re really looking forward to seeing him play next year at Harvard. He’€™s the kind of guy that I think when he plays with better players, he’€™s going to make them better and it’€™s going to be better for him.”

Donato is in no rush to turn pro, and he also hopes to get a Harvard degree in the process. He has yet to declare a major, but he said he’€™d like to finish his degree at some point if he chooses to leave school early. That’€™s a bridge he won’€™t have to cross for a while, however, and his focus for now is on Harvard.

“I’€™m definitely going to prioritize academics, but my long-time goal is to be an NHL player. Whenever they think I’€™m ready, or whenever my family thinks I’€™m ready, I’€™m going to go,” Donato said. “I also want to pursue my academics and I’€™m not going to take that lightly at all.”

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Bruins draft Ryan Donato, son of Ted Donato, in second round 06.28.14 at 10:49 am ET
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The Bruins called a familiar name Saturday morning, drafting Ryan Donato in the second round of the NHL draft.

Donato is the son of former Bruin and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. The 18-year-old center, who grew up in Scituate, put up 37 goals and 41 assists in 30 games for the Dexter School this past season. Donato will either remain at Dexter or head to the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League next season before going to Harvard to play for his father in the fall of 2015.

Scouting reports praise Donato’€™s hockey smarts and offensive skill, though writes that his skating could stand to improve.

The Bruins have taken forwards with their first two picks, as they drafted Czech right wing David Pastrnak in the first round. They did not have a third-round pick, as it was traded to the Flyers in exchange for Andrej Meszaros.

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Ted Donato can see the power of the ‘B’ 02.02.09 at 10:01 pm ET
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In honor of the first of two excellent Beanpot Mondays here at the TD Banknorth Garden, we thought we’d get a quick Bruins thought from Harvard head hockey coach Ted Donato, who scored 119 goals and 147 assists during portions of 9 seasons proudly wearing the Spoked B on his chest before retiring in 2003-04.

Harvard dropped a thrilling 4-3 game to Boston University in the early game Monday evening, but the Crimsom flashed the same kind of heart and work ethic that the overachieving 5-foot-10, 180-pound Donato brought to the ice with him on a nightly basis.

Donato clearly has his finger on the pulse of all things hockey in the Boston area, and says that he’s easily noticing the effect that the Bruins’ resurgence is having in hockey talk and puck participation among the youth levels all around New England. 

“People are talking about the Bruins around the offices and the water coolers, so to speak. And it’s exciting for them to be successful, but they’re just a fun team to watch,” said Donato, who had 6 goals and 5 assists in 2003-04 for the Black and Gold before retiring to take on coaching duties with the Crimson. “They score goals, they skate, they play physical. It’s really been a great transition and it’s something that — with the Internet, the replays and all of the computers out there — I think kids playing hockey in the area are really beginning to appreciate what the Bruins are doing.”

Quoting Donato also gives me a good excuse to drop a little NHL ’94 greatness into the Pucks with Haggs galaxy, as this is the only thing that pops on youtube when you enter Ted Donato into the search field. Makes me pine for the days when I used to skate the unmatchable Theo Fleury and his Calgary Flames for my dominant runs to the Cyber Cup. Enjoy:

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