Joonas Donskoi wildly surpassed expectations in his first NHL season, totaling 36 points and 11 goals in 76 regular season games. He continued that run in the playoffs, scoring 12 points in 24 postseason contests in addition to scoring the first ever game-winning Stanley Cup Final goal in franchise history.
So what does Donskoi have in store for an encore?
Assuming everyone’s healthy, it’s very likely he’ll reprise his role on the second line with Logan Couture and Joel Ward. While Donskoi also spent time with Patrick Marleau and Couture in the playoffs, the Ward combo proved to be more successful and, quite frankly, Marleau should be on the third line these days anyway.
Even when Donskoi wasn’t scoring he proved to be a solid possession player (53.41 adjusted corsi-for percentage), and since his game is solidly two-ways it stands to reason that there aren’t many big holes for the league to exploit in his sophomore season. Since he played professionally in Finland before coming over to the United States, he’s not a typical rookie as he had experience playing against other adults.
All this to say that it’s reasonable to think Donskoi will see his scoring numbers increase this year rather than take a step back. If Couture is healthy and Donskoi sticks on his line, it stands to reason that he’ll put up even more points in 2016-17. If there’s a cause for concern it’s Donskoi’s shooting percentage.
He scored on 10.3 percent of his shots last season, a fair amount above the 8.98 percent that was the average in the NHL. It’s certainly possibly that Donskoi is an above-average shooter and that he’ll maintain this percentage throughout what I hope to be a long career, but it’s also very possible that we’ll see a bit of regression.
Unfortunately we don’t have much to go on other than that. Even if we had access to shooting percentages from his time in Finland, those wouldn’t tell us a whole lot about what kind of a shooter he is in the NHL. We know he’s very gifted in the shootout, and that his possession numbers are very good — particularly when playing with Couture and Ward.
So now we wait to see how that translates to goal scoring if he gets a full season with those players. He had 60 goals and 96 assists in his Finnish career, suggesting he’s always been more of a scorer than a playmaker, and truthfully the same can be said of Couture and Ward.
As Couture goes, so will go the numbers of Ward and Donskoi. Both are fine players without him, but impressive possession numbers will much more likely turn to strong goal totals if they get to play with Couture. I’ll go ahead and predict 15 goals and 30 assists for Donskoi next year. Write it down.