Coming into the season, Joonas Donskoi was the Sharks’ Finnish man of mystery. He was the reigning playoff MVP of the Finnish League, and impressed in last spring’s World Championships. But, it was unclear how quickly Donskoi would adjust to his first season on the smaller rinks of the NHL.
Any concerns soon became irrelevant, as Donskoi emerged as Doug Wilson’s shrewdest signing of the summer, and one of the best he’s ever made. The Florida Panthers’ loss (Donskoi was unsigned by the Panthers, who originally drafted him) was San Jose’s gain this season, as the Sharks added a player in the midst of his early prime, and with plenty of potential going forward.
Donskoi improved as the season went along and he gained more experience in a new league. He played his best hockey down the stretch as a half-a-point-per-game player over his last 45 games of the season (23 points in that span). His possession numbers reflect significant improvement once the calendar turned to January.
This graph from Corsica Hockey shows Donskoi’s rolling 10-game averages for the regular season and playoffs, and his numbers remain above the Mendoza line of 50% CF% from the beginning of 2016 onward, including fairly dizzying heights in March. His reputation as a playoff performer proved accurate in the postseason as well, where he tied for second on the team and fifth in the league in game-winning goals, including the series-winner against the Kings in the first round.
Going forward, Donskoi is an important part of the Sharks’ core. Even if he is only able to maintain his performance from this season, he’ll remain a critical component of the Sharks’ top 6 forward group for years to come.
Not bad for an unsigned fourth round pick.
2015-16 Sharks 5v5 Forward Usage Chart (via Corsica Hockey):
ZSR: Zone Start Ratio; The percentage of non-neutral zone starts that are offensive zone starts (OZS/(OZS + DZS))
TOI.QoT: Time On Ice Quality of Teammates; The weighted average TOI% of a player’s teammates
Rel.CF%: Individual corsi-for percentage subtracted by the team’s overall corsi-for percentage.
Joonas Donskoi Hero Chart (via Own The Puck):
Donskoi had plenty of highlight-reel plays this season, including this danglelicious assist to Matt Nieto and his previously mentioned winner against Los Angeles, but both pale in comparison to his overtime winner in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“JOOOOO-NAS DON-SKOOOOOIIIII” indeed.