Joonas Donskoi has proven to be an excellent signing for Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. His 31 points are tied for 10th among rookies and his impressive possession play goes along nicely with his sick mitts and overall play-making ability.
Donskoi introduced himself to us with his nifty moves and incredible skating, but as of late has shown less flashy but equally important possession ability. Before we look at the numbers, take a peak at his two scoring plays from last night.
Everyone but Melker Karlsson thinks Donskoi is headed around the net. Nope. This backhand pass fools the Bruins and Karlsson does the rest. Donskoi puts himself into a position to receive Couture's pass and then makes something out of nothing with his dish to Karlsson.
Ignoring the Bruins decision to allow Donskoi to camp out in the blue paint, this is a great example of Donskoi making the right decisions away from the puck. He parks himself in front of Rask and waits for Ward's shot. Even before Ward's shot, Donskoi had himself set up in the crease to tip home a potential shot. We know what he can do on the puck, so it's great to see this kind of play off it, too.
His numbers match the eye test, as Donskoi boasts an impressive 54.6 fenwick-for percentage (5v5, score-adjusted) to go with his 31 points. Donskoi has benefited from playing as much as he has with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, certainly, but like Tomas Hertl before him Donskoi is willing to go to the front of the net and take advantage of playing with two of the best players in the league.
That graphic, from the wonderful corsica.hockey shows Donskoi's play with a variety of teammates. Green ball is Donskoi without teammate, the red ball is the teammate without Donskoi and the blue ball (stop) is the pair together. Yeesh, Wingels.
NBCSN's wait-a-day-before-replay rule is preventing me from including this sequence via video, but Donskoi made a pair of plays on one shift late in the third to keep the puck in the Boston zone, preventing the Bruins from gaining possession and pulling Tuukka Rask. Once behind the net and again on the boards, Donskoi seemed to be everywhere and helped kill off valuable time as the Sharks looked to hold on to a tenuous lead.
Then there's knowing the Finn has this in the tank. Okay, so excellent penalty shooting isn't going to help the Sharks out much come playoff time, but it's nice having that ace in the hole when the skills competition does come in to play. Donskoi is signed for this season and next for a very reasonable cap hit of $925,000 a season.
The results have done the talking — Donskoi has proven to be a very shrewd signing by Wilson and his contributions come in more ways than displays of his sweet hands.
Though, honestly, wouldn't that be enough?