Boston Bruins slowly shifting away from drafting Canadian junior league prospects

By Richard Murray
Ryan Donato - Boston Bruins

Photo: Ryan Donato is one of a pair of prospects representing the Boston Bruins at the junior level. Donato was picked in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)


The Boston Bruins have moved away from drafting CHL players over the past few seasons. Currently, Mitchell Dempsey and Ryan Donato, committed to Harvard University, are the only two prospects in the system playing at the junior level.


Mitchell Dempsey, LW, Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 7th round (210th overall), 2013

Dempsey struggled mightily over the past three seasons in the OHL, only tallying 11 points while having trouble staying on the ice. This season, though, Dempsey has found his spot with the Sea Dogs, already tallying a career-high 13 points (five goals, eight assists) through his first 25 games. Dempsey has tremendous size, standing at 6’3″, an attribute that the Bruins are always high on.

Dempsey has a lot of work to do if he wants to refine his offensive game, but he has bottom-six winger potential.


Ryan Donato, C, South Shore Kings/Dexter School
Acquired: 2nd round (56th overall), 2014

Donato started the 2014-15 season in the USPHL with the South Shore Kings, playing in 13 games for that club. He also played for the United States National Team Development Program’s U-18 squad in a handful of games. Donato is expected to join the Harvard Crimson for the 2015-16 season. He scored 13 points in 10 games with the Kings and was held off the score sheet in four games with the USNTDP.

Donato will return to the Dexter School for his senior season. The Scituate, Massachusetts native dominated the prep school level last season, scoring 78 points (30 goals, 37 assists) in only 30 games. Donato has a great deal of offensive ability, but has still not faced some of the top competition he could face in the USHL.

“The challenge with assessing a high school player is that the level of competition isn’t always the greatest,” Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said at the 2014 NHL Draft. “(Donato) has a tremendous skill set and tremendous bloodlines. He has to work on his skating and strength, but he has a good package.”

At Harvard, Donato will face plenty of elite competition and will have time to fill out his 6’0″, 175-pound body.

“Here is the attraction to the NCAA kids, if they’re in a good program, they’ll develop,” Chiarelli said at the draft. “You get them for four years, and sometimes that youngster (in the CHL) isn’t ready or strong enough when they turn 20 to start playing in the AHL. You get that little period where they get a little stronger. We have a lot of good players coming out of college.”

Donato does not have much more to prove at the prep school level. Staying close to home was likely a major factor in his return to Dexter.

Boston Bruins Top Performing Non-Junior Prospect: October

It only took David Pastrnak 17 games at the AHL level to get his first chance at the NHL. The Czech Republic native did not disappoint down in Providence, scoring 18 points (five goals, 13 assists). With the Bruins lack of a right-handed shot and injuries piling up, he should now get a strong look at what he can do in the Bruins top-six. Bruins coach Claude Julien eased the 18-year-old into the lineup, only giving him 7:53 of ice time, which led to Pastrnak being held off the score sheet against Pittsburgh in his debut. Pastrnak saw a large uptick in his second NHL game, however, appearing in over 17 minutes of action.

Boston Bruins Prospect of the Month: October

Malcolm SubbanMalcolm Subban - Boston Bruins Prospect of the Month, October, 2014 has been strong during his first chance as a number one goalie at the professional level. The Rexdale, ON native still needs more seasoning in the minors, but he could see some NHL experience if an injury occurs to Tuukka Rask or Niklas Svedberg. With injuries in Boston, Providence’s blue line has also been depleted at times this season, making his 2.89 goals-against average and .915 save percentage even more impressive.

Follow Rich Murray on Twitter via @Richie_Murray