Since his return from injury against Winnipeg 13 days ago, Donskoi has not scored a point. He did not score in the two games prior to his absence, and has now failed to get on the scoresheet in nine consecutive games.
That’s the longest drought of his career, and the second such streak of six or more games this season. Donskoi’s scored just 15 points in 51 games in his injury-shortened second season, numbers that are far off the 48 he scored in 100 regular season and playoff games in his rookie campaign.
Looking beyond the traditional box score, Donskoi is scoring goals at even strength at a similar rate as last season (0.50 G60 in 2016-17 vs. 0.52 last year, per Corsica). But, his primary assist rate has dropped 0.78 A60 to 0.50, and his secondary assist rate has dropped from 0.46 to 0.20.
That decline can largely be attributed to a decrease in on-ice shooting percentage, as both the Finnish winger and the teammates he’s played with have scored on a lower percentage of their shots than last season.
Donskoi’s individual shooting percentage is down 3.3%, according to ESPN. When Donskoi’s been on the ice at even strength, the Sharks’ shooting percentage (6.23%) is the fifth-lowest of any player to suit up for at least 50 minutes this season, and down 2.14% from the mark they posted in Donskoi’s minutes a year ago.
That latter percentage has dropped even further on the power play, down 7.59% at 5v4 from a year ago, and that’s where Donskoi’s primary assist numbers have taken an even more significant hit.
In just over 77 minutes on the power play this season, Donskoi’s yet to record a primary assist and, despite a significant increase in secondary assists per 60 minutes (1.32), has seen his A60 and P60 on the man advantage drop by 0.17 and 0.39, respectively.
So, what can the Sharks do? For one, they could just move Donskoi up in the lineup.
While Donskoi’s not been the only secondary scorer to struggle at times this year, he may just be the one best suited for a look on the top line. Over the last two seasons, no other player currently on the Sharks roster has had the same possession success (60.56 CF%, 65.16 FF%), or posted a higher xGF percentage or rate.
If trade deadline acquisition Jannik Hansen is to miss extended time with the injury he suffered last night, Donskoi should get the first look in his stead on the top line. Hansen’s fit in naturally alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, and if healthy, will likely stay there down the stretch.
Reuniting Donskoi with Joel Ward and Logan Couture could spark Donskoi, given the trio’s success over the past two seasons. Donskoi also had some success alongside Couture and rookie Kevin Labanc (57.14% FF, 4.00 GF60 in just under 75 minutes together), but the latter seems to be a Barracuda mainstay at the moment.
The Sharks have some flexibility to experiment, but not much with only 12 regular season games remaining and a division lead down to four points. That may not be enough time to truly snap Donskoi’s extended slump, but moving him back to a line where he’s had some success would be a step in the right direction.